Cultural anthropology and brands.The American Marketing Association defines a brand as a “name, term, design, symbol, or any other characteristic that identifies the good or service of a seller that is so different from other sellers.” While this shortened definition is convenient, it completely misses the inextricable mental associations and emotional bonds that consumers create by valuing brands.
There is a continuity between cave paintings and current social media, the symbols have created an infinite sensory palette of visual and verbal expression that instantly produces the intended perceptual recognition – belonging, love, respect, loyalty and defense.
Brand identity elements, from names to labels to designs, are just markers of completely meaningless material. It is often not the case what the brand stands for, but what consumers perceive the brand stands for. If a consumer is intimately attached to a symbol, close examination reveals that there is actually less to the symbol than is seen in the eye. A wedding ring does not mean that a marriage has occurred. For example, the bride from the Syrian Christian communities in Kerala wears minnu (a pendant) to mark marital union. If we apply principles of cultural anthropology In order to advance the brand from mere material symbols to the mastery of symbolism, the collective understanding of the plots and metaphors that stimulate the imagination and mental associations of clients is beginning to be defined.
Symbolism is a culturally determined activity, more as a totality than as the arithmetic sum of a group of symbols. In branding, the object of symbolism is the enhancement of the importance of what is symbolized. This enrichment of symbolic meaning occurs when brand stories are recited by various authors: company, culture intermediaries, critics, retail sales staff, and customers.
The cultural lens
Harley Davidson’s loyal customers don’t care about the power generated by the engine; Rather, they are the values of the Harley brand espoused by sociocultural, symbolic, and ideological aspects that transform the occasional biker into a Harley loyalist. In fact, many car buyers are completely unaware and / or completely ignorant of product attributes and technical specifications, such as a multi-point fuel injection system, engine compression ratio, etc. None of the marks contain lists of attributes and characteristics, nor sets of form and function.
Instead, brands can only be known for displaying their unique stories within the context of symbolic perception that they create and manage over long periods of time.
When we look at brands through an anthropological cultural lens, it becomes more noticeable as to why consumers are tattooed with the Harley Davidson or Nike logo in permanent ink to proudly claim tribal membership; why they sprinkle the rim of a corona bottle with sea salt and insert a slice of lime to flavor the beer; Or they don’t mind paying $ 2.59 for a cup of Starbucks when you can make coffee at home for $ 0.07 / cup. By turning to symbolic perception, our concern with fields, organizations, and relationships changes our brand discourse framework to approach brands as vessels of symbolic meanings that evoke personalities and emotions through myth, ritual, symbolism and Ethos.
The brand is a noun. It is a verb. It may be what we do. But overall, it’s about what’s on the mind – the mind of the consumer and the mind of the employee. Unfortunately, most books, articles, and practices (such as the American Marketing Association’s imprecise definition of a brand) approach, analyze, and articulate the brand as a mere material marker from a business economic perspective. It is high time that we began to examine brands and branding from a cultural perspective. And anthropology can help a lot.