Wednesday Thoughts: "Brandification" of the Commons


I recently stumbled on an advertisement for a podcast called "On Brand with Donny Deutsch." The premise of the podcast is this:

Everything is a brand. In today's world, companies, public figures, countries, institutions, and movements are brands with their own unique values, marketing, and influence

It then got me thinking: if I accept the premise as fact, why does this fact exist? Why is there a "brandification of the common space?" I argue that this "brandification" exists as yet another confirmation of the desire for self-assertion.

First of all, like with other observations of this nature, it's not entirely self-evident that this (the proliferation of brands) is an issue unique to our times. In fact, it maps quite closely with evolutionary and cognitive explanations that postulate that the mind basically tries to be efficient in its allocation of energy. As a result, the mind will gladly automate processes that help give an accurate and straightforward representation of the world. This is observable in our lives. We implicitly trust the quality of an Apple computer or the taste of Coca-Cola almost purely because of our interface with the brands. This means that when we make our way in the world, we prioritize information or nuggets of information that more than pays for themselves. Thus, the market for brands is burgeoning because brands are helpful nuggets of information that help in classification and navigation.

Most of the time, the idea of "brands" travel with analogs like public image/reputation and identity. It is different from them in subtle but important ways. I.e., "public image's" locus is the broader public. It is the aggregate's view of a person, thing, business, or organization. It is different from brands because brands target a specific base of past, present, or future customers. Identity is different from brands in that its locus is the junction where individuality is expressed in the context of a community. "Brands" refer to the tangible and intangible experiential evidence of a person, place, thing, business, or whatever noun is appropriate. It is that which is distinct to you and people's experience of you such that you are easily identifiable.

To go even deeper, let's ask the Aristotelian question: Why do people want brands? For clues, let's look at the purpose, use, and usefulness of brands. People want brands because they seek control over people's perception of them. Societally, it displays their desire for differentiation. In fact, Gareth Fox says:

When everything is the same, it's the brand that makes the difference.

This then leads to the paradoxical statement that there is more differentiation in sameness. This statement, at the very least, applies to our society currently. The claim that "virtually everything and everyone is a brand" implies monotony and partly highlights the current societal race to a specific form of individualization.

Brands are a manifestation of the Dostoyevskian observation. It is the human desire to assert themselves in the world. The desire to be noticed, acknowledged, and to matter.


Certainty Rating: 71%


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