Now that we've looked at a few ways advertising and marketing try to keep us from buying generic, it seems clear that our fears about buying and using generic items are pretty unfounded. Social identity, fear of poverty and consumer shame are all factors in that decision, but the fact is that a lot of advertising is geared toward keeping those issues alive for all of us.
The rise of generic branding really began in the early-'80s recession, when no-frills branding appeared clever and appealing to people who had less money to spend. It was, in its way, another form of marketing that managed to keep costs down and consumers happy. Fast forward 20 years, and the situation is once again similar: In fact, 2009 saw record sales for store brands, and Consumer Reports says that with lifestyle stores like Target getting into the mix, one in four products for sale is now a generic version of a name-brand item.
But there are some generic products that consumer groups and polls have told us to avoid. Because of the way they're produced, most experts agree that home paper products (like toilet paper and paper towels) and house paint can vary widely between name-brand and generic versions. Garbage bags and diapers are also commonly pointed out by consumer agencies as being products you'll want to explore for yourself.