New Gibson Les Paul BFG
It's all about image. If the $24k Mercs were badged as Mercs they'd be devalued exactly as you said. If, however, they called them 'Merks' and made them look a little different, Merc owners in general would be more than happy to keep paying the $90k for a "real" Merc.
Here's a little story I love from the NYT:
One Hollywood financial advisor, Scott Feinstein, told the New York Times about a call he received from a client in his mid-twenties who wanted to buy a $35,000 watch. "I said â€˜What time does it say?' and he said, â€˜Ten minutes after 3.'" Feinstein recalled. "I told him, â€˜Mine says 10 after 3 too, and it cost me 60 bucks. Put the watch down.'".
EXACTLY. And that is why Gibson owns Epiphone. I think we all get a little caught up in the Gibson name and cost, but they produce Epiphones for the very reason we are all stating.
I've long wondered about the marketing decision of PRS to make guitars in Korea branded as PRS guitars. I would think it would have made more sense to create a new name (Maybe just Smith, or Reed Guitars) and make PRS authorized copies overseas. Seems to de-value the brand (to me).
Same with Fender - why do you think the MIM strats ONLY come with vintage trem units and ONLY 21 frets?
"If the moon were made of ribs, would you eat it?"