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Brand Thinking: Seth Godin, Malcolm Gladwell, Dan Pink, and Other Mavens on How and Why We Define Ourselves Through Stuff

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Cultural critic and author Daniel Pink, who has explored such cornerstones of culture as the science of selling ideas and the psychology of motivation, sets out to define what a “brand” is:

I would define it two ways: from the sender’s point of view and from the receiver’s point of view. I don’t want to make it overly complicated, but from the perspective of P&G or Dell or any other company, a brand might be a promise: a promise of what awaits the customer if they buy that particular product, service, or experience. From the receiver’s point of view, I think a brand is a promise … a promise of what you can expect if you use the product or service, or if you engage in the experience.

When asked whether he thinks people chose products and experiences based on that promised expectation, Pink calls on our quest for belonging:

[T]ransactions between companies and individuals — or between brands and individuals — are in their own ways conversations. A promise can be one element of a conversation. It’s what draws people in. I think that’s why the dynamic is different when you look at this conversation after someone has bought the product or the service. I think the brand can operate in a somewhat different way then. When the brand is something that an individual takes home, the brand becomes something different. The brand becomes a form of affiliation, or a form of identification—a form of status. I tend to look at it as a form of affiliation. If I open up my laptop and it has the Apple logo on it, that might make me feel marginally more associated with a group of cool, interesting people than if the computer had another logo on it. … It’s deeply tribal.

I belong to the tribe of Volkswagen.

How long have you been tribe of Volkswagen? How does Volkswagen make you feel?

Fifteen years, through four 6-speed manuals.  Volkswagen makes me feel racy.  :-)

I think of VW owners as a group who cares deeply about performance and less so about luxury or status. 

That makes sense. I always thought of VW as being like Audi but without the price.

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