Rashmi Bansal takes Mint to task for telling its readers about all the expensive stuff -- a Rs.50,000 beach dress, for example -- that they don't need or can't afford. She accuses its editors of peddling to their readers what they themselves would not buy.
Well, Bansal is an MBA, so I'm sure she knows that editors/publishers may want to use their newspaper's lifestyle section to maximize their revenues rather than, say, their readers' utility or welfare. This may also be the reason why they may want to project their newspaper as the kind that rich people read, so that it becomes the preferred destination for many more peddlers of expensive trash. What good is a business newspaper if it tells you where to buy cheap B&W television or an iPod knockoff?
Anyways, I just wanted to use Rashmi's rant to point you to this post in which Dan Ariely muses about the value of brands -- even those that others cannot notice (Ferrari underwear!):
We usually think of brands as signaling something to others. We drive a Prius to show that we are environmentally conscious or wear Nike to show that we’re athletic. In this case I didn’t want to send a signal to the world, but nevertheless I felt different, as if I were signaling something to myself-telling myself something about me and using the bag to do it.
Maybe this is the attraction of branded underwear. They are basically a private consumption experience, but my guess is that if I put on a pair of Ferrari underwear, and even if nobody saw them, they would still make me feel better about myself.