From the swoosh on your favorite workout shirt to the Cincinnati Reds keyring dangling from your car ignition, consumers have been advertising brands for decades. Designer handbags and athletic gear might make a fashion statement, but the ridiculous thing about the whole arrangement is that the consumer is paying the marketing costs for those companies. How’s that for backward?

When you buy a piece of branded clothing, an accessory, a piece of athletic equipment, or even a car, you are essentially paying to advertise the product for them. You buy it and then others see what you’re wearing or using and, when people are exposed often enough to the brand message, they start buying it too.

In effect, consumers are doing all of the advertising for the manufacturer and getting none of the revenue. We’re actually paying them to help market their product. That makes no sense and we should stop doing it.

A dozen or so years ago I bought my first new car. As I was finalizing the paperwork I noticed a dealer employee pulling the paper cover off the back of an adhesive strip on a 3-D dealership logo decal. As he was about to slap it onto the side of my vehicle, I got the sales person’s attention and explained, quite clearly, that he wasn’t going to put any of that stuff on my new car.

The salesman tried to wave me off, saying, “We put our sticker on all of our vehicles.” To which I replied, quite sternly, “Not on mine you aren’t.” I work in the world of advertising and marketing and you need to be aware that the seller’s decal on your new car has value – or they wouldn’t spend the money to put it there.

I explained to the salesman that if he allowed the technician to finish gluing that hideous logo to my new car he would owe me something around $5,000.00, either in cash or deducted from my final vehicle price. Shocked doesn’t even begin to describe his response.

Here’s my reasoning. When they put the logo decal on the car, it’s placed in a highly visible location on the vehicle’s body, usually on the trunk lid or tailgate. That way it’s at eye-level with drivers behind and easy to see by passersby when parked.

As you make your daily commute, dozens of people will probably see the decal. For every person who sees it, there is a calculable value to sales potential just based on exposure to the brand. Think of it like this.

If the dealers sell hundreds of cars a year, that means hundreds of those “brand messages” out there placed directly in front of some guy who, sitting in his rattletrap of a car, suddenly realizes he needs a new one. When it’s time to buy, he will remember the name he saw over, and over again, on the back of cars, he followed every morning on the way to work.

That $1.50 spent on the logo decal by the dealership will now produce thousands in profit even from just a single sale. Smart, isn’t it? Yes, but it’s time to turn the tables. Brands are learning the power of influencers and online awareness through social media but that same concept translates into everyday consumer activity as well.

There is something else to consider as well, your personal reputation and how people see you. When you wear or display the logo of some company’s product, you are endorsing it, all while helping to spread awareness of the brand for them. Companies spend tons of money developing branded merchandise with a staggering return for them on the investment.

Branded merchandise can also help consumers feel part of something, like wearing the jersey of your favorite professional sports player. There’s nothing wrong with that, just be aware that you’re endorsing and advertising for big business and you get nothing. And, yes, the dealership removed all of its markings before my car left the lot. I even have the Apple logo covered on my iPhone. If they want me to advertise for them, they can pay me for the real estate.
Deer in Headlines

By Gery L. Deer

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. More at