Branding – bonding with a hero or a company or any other imaginary character – is merely an entangling of identity hooks.
We connect because we are alike.
But where do we gather these identity hooks on which hang our self-definitions?
“The music we listen to may not define who we are. But it’s a damn good start.”
― Jodi Picoult, Sing You Home
Our books and movies define us.
“What makes a library a reflection of its owner is not merely the choice of the titles themselves, but the mesh of associations implied in the choice… A keen observer might be able to tell who I am from a tattered copy of the poems of Blas de Otero, the number of volumes by Robert Louis Stevenson, the large section devoted to detective stories, the miniscule section devoted to literary theory, the fact that there is much Plato and very little Aristotle on my shelves. Every library is autobiographical.”
– Alberto Manguel, The Library at Night, p. 194
“I’m not really sure which parts of myself are real and which parts are things I’ve gotten from books.”
― Beatrice Sparks, Go Ask Alice
Our imaginations define us.
“Perhaps it’s impossible to wear an identity without becoming what you pretend to be.”
― Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game
“When you become the image of your own imagination, it’s the most powerful thing you could ever do.”
Our relationships define us.
“Relationships take up energy; letting go of them, psychiatrists theorize, entails mental work. When you lose someone you were close to, you have to reassess your picture of the world and your place in it. The more your identity was wrapped up with the deceased, the more difficult the loss.”
― Meghan O’Rourke
“People leave imprints on our lives, shaping who we become in much the same way that a symbol is pressed into the page of a book to tell you who it comes from. Dogs, however, leave paw prints on our lives and our souls, which are as unique as fingerprints in every way.”
― Ashly Lorenzana
Our beliefs about God define us.
“Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion.”
― Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging
Our weaknesses define us.
“Do not free a camel of the burden of his hump; you may be freeing him from being a camel.”
― G.K. Chesterton
Our choices define us.
“Identity was partly heritage, partly upbringing, but mostly the choices you make in life.”
― Patricia Briggs, Cry Wolf
“We are not defined by the family into which we are born, but the one we choose and create. We are not born, we become.”
― Tori Spelling
“We are what we love. We are the things, the people, the ideas we spend our days with. They center us, they drive us, they define us to our very core.”
― Daisy Whitney, The Rivals
But what does this mean to a business?
“Branding is not merely about differentiating products; it is about striking emotional chords with consumers. It is about cultivating identity, attachment, and trust to inspire customer loyalty. Chinese brands score low on attributes such as ‘sophisticated,’ ‘desirable,’ ‘innovative,’ ‘friendly,’ and ‘trustworthy.'”
– Professor Nirmalya Kumar, London Business School
“The firmest friendship is based on an identity of likes and dislikes.”
– Gaius Sallustius Crispus, 35 BC
Quirks and preferences, foibles and flaws, these are the essence of branding. They are the feathers and robes of a tribe.
Your mainstream virtues do not define you.
Definitions like “Honest” “Family-oriented” “Success-driven” and “Caring” blur you into the watery crowd, for which of us doesn’t embrace those things?
If you will stand on a surfboard and ride the waves, you must confess your uncommon characteristics. “Bookworm” “Poker player” “Ballroom dancer” “Bow-hunter” “Lover of marching bands” “Fantasy Football Freak” “Singer of Broadway show-tunes” “History nerd” “Shade-tree mechanic” “Aspiring magician” “Rescuer of insects” “Would-be inventor.”
Your guilty pleasures are what people remember best about you. They give depth and dimension to your image. They are the identity hooks that will entangle others.
They are the feathers of your tribe.