Originally Posted by Jill
Nah, it's far simpler than all that, I think. While Zegna is somewhat of an exception, most high-end makers don't spend a lot on advertising. Compare that to what Boss, Armani, et al spend and it just boils down to product awareness.
I'd be willing to bet that if you polled 100 men in your office, MAYBE 5 have even heard of Kiton or Attolini, compared to 80-90 who've heard of Boss and/or Armani.
While I think there's a bit of truth in most of the posts here, I think Jill's post hits the nail on the head. Armani, for example, spends an obscene amount in marketing. They were also lucky enough to essentially create a trend in the 1980's which became very popular (so much so that the Armani name still has incredible influence in fashion today). Not only does Armani market itself heavily, but it also markets itself as an exclusive brand. People think that, by purchasing Armani, they are buying something exclusive and expensive that not just anyone can afford (and, let's face it, Armani clothing isn't cheap in price). To most people, it is astronomical to pay $1,500 or $2,000 on a suit, which is right in Armani's niche. I imagine that if you ask 100 men on the street what is the best suit, at least 80 of them will say "Armani" without even thinking twice. Most of this is attributable to the Armani marketing machine.
The same can be said for Polo. People see the little horsey on your shirt and instantly recognize the brand as one of quality (at least in their minds). Also, look at brands like Coach, Abercrombie & Fitch, Rolex, and (though it pains me to admit it) Brooks Brothers. All of these brands market themselves extensively and paint themselves as exclusive. This is not to say they make crap (well, maybe A&F), but there are generally better choices from a quality standpoint. However, these brands carry an air of exclusivity, and they are readily available to consumers.
Another factor to consider is celebrity endorsement. I know it drives some of the denim heads on the street forum crazy that a brand like True Religion has taken off. However, much of their success came about because celebrities started wearing their jeans. It seems to me that there was a point in time when every male celebrity on the awards show runway would say their tux was by Armani. Thus, people will want to wear these brands, because celebrity endorsement makes them seem more exclusive.