Monday, May 21, 2012

Brands, not trademarks?

The NYT has Adam Davidson on making choices in an information-oversaturated world.  It doesn’t use the word “trademark,” but recites the standard justifications for trademark protection, focusing on the signaling effect: a well-known brand or endorser supposedly guarantees that the producer invests in quality, or at least is successful enough that it has the money to spend on showy advertising, though as Davidson points out some of those signals can be easy to feign in the absence of investment in less visible actual quality.  Particularly interesting to me was that one of the instances of relying on brand signals involves using an aggregator—Amazon—as an indicator of quality, rather than a smaller site supposedly offering the underlying, most likely branded, product at a lower price.  I myself don’t know why fulfillment by Amazon would matter; I’ve gotten scratched DVDs from Amazon sellers (curse you, last disc of Season 2 of The Wire!), and a good aftermarket ceiling fan from an eBay seller (a high-rated one, true!) at a hundred dollars below other offers.  The incident Davidson reports also reinforces the point that high price is a (feignable) signal of high quality in itself. 

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