Generic Versus Name Brand: Is There Really a Difference?

The general public assumption is that generic items are of less quality than name brands. The cheaper packaging and poor marketing strategy of generic brands equate them to low-value goods. The funny thing is most generic products are identical to their name-brand counterparts. In fact, some generic items are even made by name-brand companies, essentially allowing double-dipping in the profit pool.

The key difference between name brands and generic products often comes down to marketing strategies. Companies have extravagant budgets dedicated to branding. The marketing dollars go towards numerous campaigns aimed at convincing consumers that a specific brand is superior to all others. Branding is a well-studied and perfected art form, and it works. Still, what should a consumer know about generic and name-brand goods, and is there ever an appropriate time to splurge?

The Cash Separation Game 

While many people do not like to think about it, consumers are only pawns in a profit game. Corporations will attempt to interest buyers with "unique" and "rare" quality products when in reality, the product is made for pennies on the dollar in some local or foreign facility. If a company cannot upsell you on the uniqueness or luxury of their brand, they may cater to your thrift side by making the same product in a generic form.

Grocery chains are cogs in the same machine. A chain will sell name-brand items for high prices and sell store-brand goods that are the generic forms of brands for cheap. Generic brands are made alongside name brands in the same factories in many instances.

Know the Rules of the Game

When you really start to think about how generic items are essentially carbon copies of name brands, you may wonder why you spend your hard-earned money on name brands. You might wonder if there is ever a reason to splurge on higher-priced items.

There are top-tier and second-tier generic brands. Top-tier generic items are essentially identical to name brands in every way except for the packaging and branding. Second-tier generic items do stumble on the quality of the items a little. For example, Target's Market Pantry label is a top-tier generic product, but Kroger Value is a second-tier label. To get the most bang for your buck, stick to top-tier generics.

Know When Generics Offer Superior Value 

Prescription and over-the-counter medications are incredibly expensive and hard on the average budget. Without adequate health insurance, medications can eat into grocery and living budgets. Therefore, it is often best to stick with generic brands.

Generic medications have the exact same active ingredients as name brands. Additionally, many generic OTC medications are identical to their counterparts. While copying might sound shady, it is perfectly legal when it comes to medications and similar items.

Additionally, baby formula regulations have not changed since 1980. Therefore, all available formulas will meet all nutritional requirements.

While generics are essentially the same as name-brand products, it is important to stick with items you are comfortable with. When talking about medications and formulas, you want to stick to brands that work for you. However, in most cases, switching to a generic brand over a name brand is well worth it financially.