Anthropology and the Brand
“To manage brands is to manage societyif we can capture a moment it is surprising the catalytic changes we can make.”
Anthropology may seem like a strange word to be including in a book that seeks to push the leading edge of brand thinking, yet the only strange thing is the extent to which it has previously been ignored. As the social science that studies the origins and social relationships of human beings, it is a central discipline that explains much of how brands work through the many societies and cultures across the world.
The word ‘anthropology’, perhaps, has poor brand image itself as it sends images of apes, hominids and the old TV zoologist Desmond Morris. Yet despite his TV image, Desmond Morris was one of the leading anthropologists of his day, writing such books as The Naked Ape in which he points out: Homo sapiens has remained a naked ape nevertheless; in acquiring lofty new motives, he has lost none of the earthy old ones. This is frequently a cause of some embarrassment to him, but his old impulses have been with him for millions of years, his new ones only a few thousand at the most—and there is no hope of quickly shrugging off the accumulated genetic legacy of his whole evolutionary past.
In other words, when we are considering brands and people, to ignore our history is to ignore our humanity. Although the targets of our brand may pretend to be advanced beings, those earthy motives keep re-appearing. To be brand masters, we must see people as evolving creatures that are doing the best they can, within their limiting evolutionary constraints. Most importantly, to understand the drivers, conscious and unconscious, of both ourselves and our customer/stakeholder is critical to optimising business performance.
Key Thought Summary
• We are not long out of the trees. We are victims of this recent
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