THE BLOG
06/13/2014 03:48 pm ET | Updated Aug 13, 2014

Brand As Human

"Brand" had been with us since human time began. Millennia before marketing coined the term "branding," the how, when, and why of people "attaching" to a person, product, or idea, has been nothing less than the engine of history. Attachment is why one product is preferred over another and why people lay down their lives for a cause.

Marketers would do well to look at how the human attachment process operates from the point of view of "people," rather than "consumers." The category "consumer" is too small of a box to put people in if a business is ever going to understand them.

Having a Rightful Business Strategy Requires Getting People Right

Particularly in this era of economic uncertainty, marketers would do better if they would deploy anthropological methods to comprehend the illogical preferences, the innocent desires, the mess of assumptions, and the untested deductions, people live by. This entails a shift in perspective from seeing people as rational, objective, linear thinkers who are armed with complete domain-specific knowledge. People are not a physics problem. People are embodied thinkers.

Attitude and usage studies, as well as traditional surveys and focus groups, will no longer do. These tried-and-not-so-true methods of inquiry, and the models of human life they imply, catch only a very isolated top-of-mind impulse. That's not good enough, especially in the complex world we live in today, where nothing is all of one piece.

Return on Investment (ROI) v Return on Attachment (ROA)

To achieve a return on investment (ROI), marketers must define a new calculus: A Return On Attachment (ROA). Such a metric would entrain the emotionally-based logic responsible for how the mind can enfold self-identity and product-identity into a single narrative. That is the force that wins sales and boosts profits. That is the force that is derived from understanding peoples' experience of things, rather than the things themselves.

Branding is usually defined as the process by which a company or product name becomes synonymous with positive attributes. But this is mere commodity. The human mind is a maker of patterns, symbols, narratives, metaphor and myths. Human beings are wired to make meaning, not disembodied associations. In making meaning, people do not paint by the numbers.

To earn a dollar, marketers must understand peoples' narratives of self, and how people transform the world into their world. These stories virtually always display paradox, inconsistency and irony. These are not elicited by asking product-oriented, attribute-oriented discussion-guide questions. Furthermore, in the typical statistical process of seeking results, everything that is human is eliminated, averaged out.

Current measures of marketing effectiveness have little to do with cognition and the way the mind builds attachments to things based on how things are experienced. Expected utility is not an Einsteinian equation ready to solve the way of the marketing universe. The cosmology of human cognition is more an elegant relativity than a Newtonian theorem.

Marketers must come to terms with how the mind of real people, living real lives, in real time, actually operates, before its methods, models and tools can uncover the "theory of everything."

Go humans!