I’ve been interested lately in the phenomenon of the “cult brand” or the “brand hijack.” This is brand loyalty with a twist: instead of passively adopting a brand and its corporate-defined identity, consumers are taking a more active role in manipulating, sustaining, and promoting the meanings of their favourite brands. The most obvious example of a cult brand is the Apple iPod (for which there are hundreds of mods, hacks and tributes available, from gum-wrapper carrying cases to an iPod coffee table) but brands like eBay, Amazon, and Starbucks have equally fanatical and dedicated fanbases.
Today, I’ve been reading the book “Brand Hijack” which is much better than the usual gee-whiz marketing book. It has some genuinely insightful stuff to say about the changing nature of consumerism and identity in the weird wired world.
I’m writing a piece on the topic for the Wonderful New Toronto Sunday Star, so I’ll link to that soon. But in the meantime, I was wondering if people would be willing to help me engage in a bit of armchair market research. What are your favourite brands? That is, what brands do you like, not because you like the product, but because it reflects your values, your identity, or permits a sense of community?
Feel free to interpret “brand” in the widest possible sense. So, it includes not just shoes and cornflakes and coffee and electronics, but also services (Hotmail, Orkut, Friendster), cultural works and franchises (Star Wars, Lego), organisations and community groups (Linux, Creative Commons) and so on.
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UPDATE: Here’s some reading, to get those ideas flowing.
1. James Surowieki on The Decline of Brands
2. Business Week on The Culting of Brands
3. Der Speigel on the hijacking of brands by skinheads.