Do Brands Have The Power To Change The World?



Here is the one true thing I know about humans having studied them in action and been one myself for many years: we are essentially “good”. Whether we all know it or not, we share a light of truth that binds us to one another in a spirit of belonging whereby we all have the opportunity to thrive.

This is fact. However, if you disagree with this fact, feel free to stop reading and I’ll catch you later once you have experienced proof of concept. Which wont be long now.

So, yes its true that people are naturally inclined to be good. We know that. But for too many of us these days, that light is hidden in shadows or buried altogether. Or at least we think it is.   We have a tendency – especially in the more economically developed parts of the world – to dive too deep into the distractions of daily life – letting the shiny things substitute for soul shine and forgetting that the good stuff is on the inside. I suppose we have started to forget we belong to one another –that we are love and we are loved.

But here’s the good news – light and love is contagious. It is downright virally infectious. When one human allows their light to shine through in its purest form – that energy draws out the light in others. It is a reflection of our highest common denominator truth and the more pervasive its exposure the more effective its result.

That’s why I like working in marketing strategy. While some people might think marketing is the art of fabricating persuasive fiction, I see it for it’s potential to give and spread the gift of truth. It is the medium through which those who direct mass-communication can remind a world full of customers to reflect, empower and spread that truth.

You see, brands have an opportunity to be so much more than shiny things that might be granted the favor of our attention for a fleeting moment in our lives.

Companies who market consumer brands have not just an opportunity but also an obligation to be more than an idea attached to the stuff we use. They can and should be the fuel – the nuggets of energy we engage with every day – that help us get stuff done – driving momentum for the positive social change that will allow all humans to thrive.

It really is a pretty simple concept:

A Brand is an idea or collection of ideas that has cultural meaning, represented in products, packaging and marketing communication as well as in the ways that the companies who market them conduct their business. When we see a brand sharing an idea that represents a deeply held human truth, we can feel that sense of belonging to one another being validated.

So, If brands can truly embrace and reflect the highest common denominator truths that exist in their most engaged customers – for example – they can reach thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions of people with that same light-filled message – since many other humans who might not necessarily be engaged with that brand will also share belief in and commitment to those truths.


This projection of highest common denominator values not only provides an opportunity for that brand to reach more humans, but for more humans to connect to one another based on those shared values.

Its also important to realize that getting at those truth’s is not as difficult as one might think. As it turns out, humans like to share their truth – whether they tell you or show you through their behavior or how they curate their lives. I should know – I have spent the last 15 years listening to eager consumer research participants share their stories. And when a brand shows interest in really understanding the human truths their customers hold dear it creates a bond that builds love – the same way it happens when you are cultivating human relationships. Because we are inclined to bond with people who care about who we are deep down and allow us to shine.

So it stands to reason that when brands and companies seek to understand their customer’s humanity, they are not only building a bond that ensures a loyal following but one that also puts a little more love out in to the world.

Now imagine if even half of the world’s gazillion brands were spreading that kind of light every day…to multiples of millions of people at a time. Imagine the world we could create if people were empowered to radiate that kind of love and light and truth and belonging every day in their interactions with all of the brands and other humans they encounter.

Based on the math alone we can see the big picture and it illustrates a very very bright future for humanity.

My mission is to help find and spread this light and remind humans how much we belong to one another so we can get on the same path toward a better tomorrow. Sure there are several light-spreading callings out there from music to religious practice to art and film.   I choose work that communicates through the lens of consumer culture – because I truly believe in the power of marketing love to the world.

Our mission at Culture – the cultural strategy firm where I am a partner –  is to cultivate human connection in the interest of shared thriving. We do this by strategically helping companies understand the potential of their brand from the perspective of their best customer’s highest common denominator values. In the process of finding the upside of humanity in the people who support their companies, the humans who run those companies also get the opportunity to bring their own humanity in to their work. It makes for better business and it makes for a better world for all of us.

So yes – brands do have the power to change the world – by elevating the consumer cultural conversation. Because shiny things with fictional stories are simply disposable objects. But brands that share human truths in their communications and their business practices are love machines that have can bring humans into the light and help us achieve the potential we all have to create the world we want to live in – one where we don’t live in fear of our ability to survive but rather embrace our power to thrive.


All it takes is a little love and the willingness to seek out our truth.




Categories: Branding, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Hold the Soda: The Case for Ordering a Beer During the Work Week Lunch


Many thanks to the team at for their continued support of the Narcissistic Anthropologist and allowing me to contribute to their tumblr page from a “beer behaviorist” perspective.  The blog below was originally posted on their tumblr page, right here

“I’ll take a lager.”

A simple sentence that wouldn’t normally elicit any reaction during happy hour or a weekend.

But it’s a Tuesday at noon.

Since the start of my study around beer culture, I’ve been conducting a fun experiment:

I’ve swapped the expected lunchtime diet soda or iced tea for a beer at meetings with clients, colleagues and friends. The reaction usually falls into two camps: either that of the guilt-ridden worker or the unleashed rebel. I’ve heard everything from a resigned sigh coupled with “I wish it would be okay to have a beer, but I have to go back to work,” to a jubilant “Let’s start a revolution!”

Which made me think, why not a revolution or more of an act of solidarity among beer lovers? To make my case, here are three reasons to have #Beerswith our colleagues, friends and clients for lunch.

1. Beer time doesn’t have to mean “play” time.
Anthropological studies have shown that drinking in general is “already segregated and separated from work” and more of a nighttime activity, likely due to leftover social misconceptions from prohibition era. But these same studies also show that this attitude is far from universal. In cultures the world over, regrouping at lunch with a beer is just as common as the after-work drinking session.

In countries like Germany beer is such a vital part of the culture that not only is it normal to have a beer with lunch in a workplace setting, but it is also common to see the right to drink beer at lunch written into a employment agreements.

Based on studying beer lovers in the U.S., I hear time and time again how they feel some of their best procrastination-busting moments come after relaxing with co-workers for a few minutes over a beer. Just imagine what we could accomplish by shifting gears away from the “grind” mentality with an occasional office-hours beer.
2. Having #Beerswith colleagues is good for workplace morale.
From both an anthropological perspective and basic human reasoning, beer has long been regarded as a social leveler, and the act of getting together for a beer fosters communication between those of different ranks and status in society. In a workplace setting, allowing coworkers to enjoy the occasional brew at lunch (especially those on cross-functional teams or between bosses and their direct reports) can open up lines of communication. The mere presence of beer creates a relaxed, collaborative atmosphere that one wouldn’t get over a coffee break or around the water cooler.
3. Prohibition is Long Gone: Our forefathers suffered enough so we don’t have to.
Sad, but true. Drinking at lunch almost ruined beer for all of us. In the early 1900s, it was commonplace for pubs to offer “free lunch” with a purchase of an adult beverage, thus attracting the attention of the temperance movement. In the context of rampant unemployment of the time, day-drinking in exchange for free food represented a social ill that prompted extremist to side with banning booze altogether. It was this attack on the idea of “There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” that actually fed the temperance movement argument, ultimately leading to the passage of prohibition.
Today, let’s not judge ourselves by such antiquated rules. If you’re holding down a job, chances are you’re a responsible adult capable of drinking in moderation.
To sum suds it up, most beer lovers and Americans know how to enjoy beer responsibly – and sometimes the responsible thing to do is to trust and empower our employees, coworkers and ourselves to be a little more human and social. If we were able to repeal prohibition, then we should be able to also give ourselves permission to go back to our roots and enjoy a work day lunch with a beer. After all, there are plenty of lagers and sessionable ales that offer lower alcohol content for this mid-day occasion.

Fellow beer lovers – do your part – have #Beerswith – lunch and a friend this work week. Who’s in?

Categories: American Culture, Beer, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Be still my beating NYC HeART

I lived in New York City for a few short-but-long-enough years in the “early 2000s”.  My renovated-but-still-affordable apartment was on (as we told my girlfriend’s conservative suburban mother) the “upper upper upper East Side.  Otherwise known as east Harlem.

I was in anthropologist heaven but quality-of-life hell.  While I appreciated joining a neighborhood (even if it was as a friendly and respectful interloper) with a vibrant and sometimes very dark culture, I also spent much of my time keenly aware that I had no business being there.  It was the kind of place where most people growing up there strive to get out and then see well-meaning but naive “upwardly mobile” young white folks moving in BY CHOICE and just can’t understand.

My brother lived (and still does) near Union Swuare and so I spent a lot of time commuting to the “bottom half” of the island.  When I lived there I rarely took the time to look up and out from my immediate mission of self preservation.  But now when I visit (often for work but this most recent time for “liesure”) I was focused on allowing the outside in and making a point to see all the writing on the wall (or wherever else the writing is).

What I found on this most recent expedition to the concrete Empire State jungle was a lot more love than I had seen before.   I think I had chosen not to experience the city as a place that required armor to keep the darkness out.  But lately (and maybe it’s been there all along) I have been finding the light.  Here are some of the “not so scary” pieces of art and life that I spied on my weekend trip in late June.  Somewhere near Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea and some pavement in between:

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Categories: Anthropology, Art, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

The Beer Lovers Guide To Travel

This post in it’s original form can be found on Let’s Grab A Beer’s Tumblr Page, where I contribute content as “The Beer Behaviorist” to help the world appreciate beer through a culture-focused lens.  Points of view are based on ethnographic fieldwork i have conducted / am continuing to conduct among beer lovers!


As a professional anthropologist who studies popular culture and brands, traveling to a new locale and getting to know its people are part of the gig. Since diving into beer culture, it dawned on me that among the best, most rewarding travel experiences, there was a common denominator– grabbing a beer at local bars and brewpubs.

Whether traveling for work or play, exploring a new city from a beer lover’s perspective can lead to great experiences. Why? Because beer lovers are innately social adventurers who make a point to stay positive and connect with communities. So, do as local beer lovers do with these three simple and fun tips.
1. Bond with locals over a beer.
A great place to start your travel adventure is at a neighborhood pub – because let’s face it, everything is better with beer. There, you can get a flavor of the local scene and its inhabitants to get the inside scoop on their city. The best thing about beer appreciation is that it’s always a great conversation starter.
According to my cultural research, beer lovers are social types who are often more open and generally down to earth. That means they’ll usually be more than happy to oblige in conversation about favorite local beers and best beer styles. Not only will you have an instant friend, but you’ll have the opportunity to experience your vacation destination like a local, adding a layer of connected authenticity not found on Yelp.
2. Swap wine with beer for a new foodie experience.
Experiencing the local flavors is one of the best parts of traveling. From my conversations with beer lovers, they like to experience all what life has to offer. So, instead of asking your waiter (or even better, a cicerone) for wine recommendations to go with your locally-sourced meal, kick off your experience with a beer pairing instead. Beer is just as versatile as wine to complement a meal.
Another option is heading to the local brewpub for a great culinary experience. You’ll be hard pressed to find a brewmaster that doesn’t also take pride in his or her culinary palate. Local brewers tend to source their influences from a variety of places that relate not just to their local culture and seasonal influences, but the heritage of beer brewing in their location. Chances are those influences are present in both the beer as well as the food.
3. Learn the history of a city through a beer lens.
The traveling beer lover is more inclined to go with the flow as their natural curiosity always drives them to dig a little deeper to get the most out of their experience. That’s what makes the historical pub crawl a perfect way to round out a city visit. There, you can get a unique perspective of a city’s history and hear tales connected to the social drinking places, all while enjoying a cool brew at the same time!

Here are some examples of historic bar crawls in popular travel destinations:


Greenwich Village New York:

So remember, when you travel, travel like a beer lover and seek them out as well. To quote one of my new bar friends, “A beer lover will never steer you wrong.”
*Jamie is a professional anthropologist who has been studying consumer culture as a strategy consultant for brands and businesses for the past 15 years. Lets Grab A Beer is sponsoring her deep dive in to the social life of beer so she can bring beer lovers and newbies alike points of view all the interesting and fun ways beer has become a part of our culture.

Categories: Consumer Culture | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Getting Down To Business By Letting The Love In

Framed-Art Print-11707-Business Love-Urban-Giclee Paper-A

I originally posted this article on LinkedIn
but felt compelled to share here as well, since the Narcissistic Anthropologist in me is certain you will want to read it.  ;)

Most humans will readily admit to wanting people to like them. While it’s a mild demonstration of vulnerability to do so, it’s one a good amount of people are okay with disclosing, even if they never say it out loud.

All we have to do is look to social media. We affirm one another with “thumbs up” on status updates, selfies and pictures of our dinner. But we all know that this is a more surface-level way of engaging with the world: toe-in-the-water assimilation to norms and mores in hopes of ensuring we belong.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Humans are social creatures. It is encoded in to our DNA to belong to one another so we can ensure our survival. But in a big world that seems to keep on growing, with so many people who focus on differences more than similarities so we can more easily define “us” versus “them, it’s difficult to go really deep with our social relationships. After all, we have been trained not to let the “wrong” person in lest one rotten apple spoil the bunch. Better to be liked so we can ensure we belong somewhere safe and feel a sense of social security.

But why do we want so badly to belong? Why is our security as part of the social structure so terribly important? Not so shockingly, it is because ultimately what we actually want is to be loved – not just liked. We know deep down that it is our highest calling to truly belong to one another in a way that makes a deeper commitment our common good; to sustaining momentum on the journey to finding our potential and embodying our highest visions of success in this world.

We are beginning to awaken to the idea that maybe there is no such thing as a “them”. We have begun to consider that, as mother Theresa said – “the problem with our world is that we draw our circle of family too small”. It’s a testament our evolution as humans that we are seeking to own the responsibility we have to one another. It’s time to move past the “like” phase and really start sharing the love.

So then, if we are to seek to be loved versus just liked, what does that look like? What does that really mean? What is the difference between “like” and “love”? I recently “liked” a Facebook post that shared the following response as attributed to Buddha:

“When you like a flower, you just pluck it. But when you love a flower, you water it daily. One who understands this understands life”.

Essentially, love means paying attention. It means acting in the best interests of others as you would your own. It means caring enough to be present and experience the world on common ground. It means accepting that it is our responsibility to tend to the care and feeding of all of our humans and not just pluck the ones we think are pretty.

That’s a lot of work. But labors of love are the ones that bear the most fruit. We see it in the relationships that stand the test of time. We see it in the success of die-hard entrepreneurs. We see it in the rapid growth of those companies and businesses that operate from the basis of ideals.

As an anthropologist and sociologist who works as a cultural strategist in the business world, I also see it in the way my clients internalize the deeply human insights around their best customers’ highest common denominator values and light up when they begin to see the possibilities for evolving their brands, products and their business strategies. On a regular basis I see executives make powerful reconnections with their “human” side in a business context in ways that always create change for the better.

Love belongs in business. Love belongs in strategy. Love should be a core competency in our work. Because our work – especially in businesses that have a global footprint – has a profound impact on people. It touches more humans every day (especially in the global brand space) than we can even fathom and in a number of ways we may not even be aware of.

So, consider this a call to action to all those who don’t just want to settle for “like”. If you really want your career, your brand, your company or even just your “self” to achieve its highest potential then you absolutely must remember: we have unrivaled power to succeed when we make a choice to belong to one another and let the love in.

Photo credit:

Categories: Business and Culture, Consumer Anthropology | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Humans of The Willamette Valley: A Celebration of Life

Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit Portland, Oregon for the very first time and take an unexpected “side trip” about 90 minutes north to a town called Jefferson – which is located in the Willamette Valley.  To the hipster-come-borgeois bohemian “metro area” dwellers (not unlike myself), the Willamette Valley is the place where “those awesome Pinot Noir’s” come from.  A haven for wine lovers.

To my friend E and her family – it’s home.   That place she grew up playing in the blackberry bush brambles, living in a kid-paradise of both tamed and untamed nature and watching her Mother tend to the many plants and flowers in her greenhouse while her father worked in his.

E puts together a living as an Artist who does freelance design work.  She is an introvert by nature but you can tell she is retaining an intense light no doubt nurtured by the natural beauty she grew up in and parents who took great pride raising all kinds of living things – from plants and flowers to children – to bloom bright in whatever way nature intended.

E’s mother passed about 4 months ago; several months after E had moved back out there from the East Coast with her partner to care for her in her final battle with Cancer.

When I arrived in Portland for my conference (The World Domination Summit – which will absolutely be featured in another blog entry) – I got in touch to see if it was possible to get together while I was in town.   As it turned out – E’s entire family (all the brothers and sisters and aunts and cousins) would be arriving in just a few days for a planned Celebration of Life that Sunday to honor her Mother.   They hadn’t had a memorial service and – as it turns out, in the true spirit of her family – the preferred method of commemoration was that of a joyful gathering in the place and with the people her Mother loved most.

E and her partner extended an invitation for me to join them Saturday afternoon and evening for a family BBQ in advance of the big Sunday celebration – to let the Anthropologist in me see some more of Oregon and experience ” the native way of life”.  I think she actually used that term. :)  But I was just happy to see my friend and also secretly excited to see E’s Dad’s farm – where he has been growing organic medical marijuana among his other crops.  I had never seen anything like that except for on television and my curiosity was beyond peaked.  I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to the subject matter of  anything related to deviance (i even got a degree in it – of sorts and even if Marijuana is now technically Legal in Oregon and therefore no longer defined as “deviant” by law).

What I experienced that night was nothing off-the charts on an “indigenous ritual” scale.  Just a collection of loved ones grilling dinner and catching up – enjoying the comfort and discomfort of family interaction in anticipation of what would surely be an emotional day to follow.  But I did experience off-the-charts love oozing out of every person I encountered.  They welcomed me  – a stranger for all intents and purposes – in to their home with so much warmth during a very special and private time in their family’s journey together.

I am grateful for the reminder of my love for humankind and the reason why I chose this calling of observing, capturing and trying to make sense of the human experience.  Over the years I have learned that despite our many differences based on geography, demography, ethnicity, etc. that we have so much more in common than we know.

So I would like to share a celebration of life via a photo journal of  E’s family’s big heart-space in a relatively small part of the world.  As a gesture of gratitude to Honor E’s mother and the love in all of us, here are some captured images and moments from my “native experience” in Jefferson, Oregon:

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Categories: American Culture, Anthropology | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

It’s A Revolution! The Resurgence of Vinyl and Being Present


I was raised on great music. Music we listened to in our “den” – usually on vinyl or cassette (once my older brother became a teenager and got a “Boom Box”) but still mostly on Vinyl.  My parent’s collection of Jazz and 70’s rock and Folk was a university course in music appreciation.

I was actually recently the lucky recipient of the entire collection, which my Mother has been looking to get rid of for years so she could redecorate her spare bedroom.

My wife also has a sizable record collection that includes everything from Disco Mickey Mouse to Prince to the entire musical score of Oklahoma.

We actually built out a room in our home to serve as both her teaching studio (she is a voice and singing instructor) as well as our “listening room”.  Since we finished the renovations last summer we have spent countless hours gathered around the turntable, whether with guests or simply alone with one another on an impromptu “date night”.  We comb  through the stacks of cardboard sleeves,  reminisce about the first times we’d heard those records and the moments in our lives they reminded us of and get our ridiculous “groove” on.

These are some of the best times I’ve had in years.  Why?  Because I had no idea where my iPhone was and didn’t care.  Because I’ve learned so much about the lives of my friends and loved ones.  Because i was unequivocally present in every moment, enjoying music as the energy that brings us all together.

In a recent post on my “business” website, my partner and I co-authored a blog about The Return of Vinyl: A Movement in Music and Presence.   In it, we marvel at the return vinyl and listening to records as a cultural trend gaining steady momentum.  We link it to the idea that, as a first-world culture where we spend an increasing amount of our  time and attention on things happening in the digital world, we have lost the art of making human connections “here on earth.”  We literally crave a respite from technology in favor of being present and enjoying simple pleasures – like listening to music, or having a conversation, or appreciating art just because it is there and evokes an emotion.

Records bring us back to a time before the digital when, if you wanted to enjoy music, you went to your local record store and poured through the stacks, had conversations and made connections with the other humans around you, however different, based on your shared love of music.

The act of listening to a record is one that forces us to be present.  It’s good medicine for a world that can seem sometimes detached and bitter.   Sharing the music means sharing the love – and sitting down to listen to some vinyl for a while means you allow yourself to let life revolve around the music.

Categories: American Culture, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Motherly Advice from an 82 Year-old Beer Lover

The original post for this article can be found  here:, a Tumblr page dedicated to the love of beer. I have been conducting anthropological research on the culture surrounding beer and will be contributing regular content to their page as a result of this sponsored fieldwork.  I couldn’t be more thrilled that the first blog up is this one – in honor of Mother’s Day.

I quite literally fell in love with Rita after spending a half day / evening with her – learning about her life and experiencing all the love she has to share with the world.  I felt lucky to have the experience.  Rita is an accomplished Antropologist in her own right – having taught Contemporary studies in a university setting, published a number of books, articles (and participated in documentaries) about the Delaware Indians – who were the previous residents of the Catskill Mountains where she grew up.  She told me that her parents, who “came to America from Europe to avoid becoming gingerbread in somebody’s oven” told her that the only reason they have the opportunity to live where they do is because the Delaware Indians got kicked out – and that she should make a point to give back.

She certainly has – but not just to the native populations of upstate New York.  She is also an accomplished playwright (her latest just opened two weekends ago) – focusing on stories that give a voice to marginalized populations.  She has committed her life to using the arts as a forum to shed light on humanitarian issues.   More about Rita can be found here:

In addition to the many life-long accomplishments (including being a proud mother, grandmother and great grandmother) she is also an expert on beer!  She’s written a couple of books on the topic and is the beloved by the brewing community in Indianapolis for her commitment to the craft and the community.  She is truly the “Fairy Beer Godmother” of that town and I am proud to call her a new friend.  Cheers to Rita Kohn and here’s to some wisdom through a beer lens!

Rita Kohn is the Craft Beer Editor for the Indianapolis weekly alternative newspaper Nuvo Magazine and author of beer-centric books including A True Brew: A Guide to Craft Beer in Indiana. She’s well-known and adored by many in the thriving Indianapolis beer scene. Oh, and did I mention she is 82 years young?
I met Rita Kohn while conducting anthropological fieldwork exploring American beer culture. Over some brews of course, we talked about the role of beer in her life and discussed its social significance as well as beer culture.
With Mother’s Day upon us, I wanted to share some life lessons as seen through the eyes of the Mother of Indy’s beer scene (and newly appointed great grandma) – who loves good beer and has lived what is above and beyond a good life thus far.

Choose Lace in Life: Beer lovers know that the sign of a quality beer is the lace – the beautiful foamy formation left on the glass. Despite living in the depression era, Rita’s parents always chose to enjoy quality food and the best beer over quantity.
Rita advises others to be choosy about what’s put into your body. “You get so much more out of enjoying quality food and drink in moderation than you do by over indulgence.

Beer is one of those life choices – a beverage well suited to be appreciated for its characteristics and enjoyed best when savored,” says Rita.

Find Your Barley: Often referred as the ingredient that brings “soul” to great beers, Rita says finding your barley – what moves you and drives a passion – is key to a good life.
She points to her appreciation of local brews that feed her soul. “When you enjoy a glass of good beer, you’re experiencing the love and passion that went into its creation.” It’s an inspiring window into what living up to one’s potential can do to add value to the lives of others.
Throw in Some Hops Every Day: Hops add the spice and flavor to beer. Rita’s “hops” comes in the form of immersing herself in new cultures. Rita grew up in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York – land previously occupied by the Delaware Indians, whose culture she came to greatly respect and appreciate – having written books and participated in documentaries about their lives and culture over the course of her career.
Appreciating different cultures is a big part of that adding spice to life. She points out that every time you taste a new beer, the history, heritage and culture is apparent in its flavor.
Take a “Beer Your Mind” Approach to Making Magic Happen: Great things happen over a beer from novel creation, songs and historical documents. Beer is the eternally great social equalizer. Rita says when you order a beer, you “take down the veil” and open yourself up to conversation and inspiration. It’s almost a universal symbol for “talk to me.” There’s no better conversation starter than “tell me about the beer you’re drinking.”
*Jamie Gordon, is a professional anthropologist studying consumer culture as a strategy consultant for brands and businesses for the past 15 years. Let’s Grab A Beer is sponsoring her deep dive into the social life of beer.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Honoring America’s Love of Beer


As with most things in a narcissistic anthropologists life, our emerging passions become contextual obsessions of sorts. We believe that if we have an affinity for something, then there must be a rich cultural significance around it – and we will stop at nothing to find and share that anthropological enthusiasm with our fellow humans. Because they deserve to know and love the things we hold dear.

You’re welcome.

It is no secret from those who know me that I enjoy a well-timed and finely crafted (or sometimes just cold – or sometimes just in a glass) alcoholic beverage. I developed a passion for the craft cocktail during some fieldwork on spirits trends (I know, life is hard) several years ago. My wife introduced an appreciation for wine. Well, really mostly wine drinking while she does the more serious “appreciating”.

Over the past few years, however, another benevolent spirit has entered my world. Beer has been finding it’s way into my restaurant and bar patterns – from cocktails made with beer, to food pairing and ultimately a refreshing addition of variety into my imbibing and social routine.

So it’s only appropriate that I have now been engaged as a professional social scientist sponsored by Lets Grab a Beer to do what I do best and “dig” in to the cultural history and present social context of beer.

I hear you. I keep getting the really tough gigs.

But here is what I promise. I will continue to periodically share my findings along with my anthropological perspective on the interesting topics surrounding beer drinking behavior and why you should care.

Again, you’re welcome.

So lets start with a few fun things I have learned thus far in my social exploration of beer:

Perhaps the most affirming cultural context of beer is this fact (or what some might call a convenient data coincidence) that I found recently: neatly packaged in the infographic below connecting beer to the founding ethos of our American way of life: Democracy! That’s right – in most free (or at least partly free) countries, you also find that the most commonly consumed alcoholic beverage is our freedom-loving foamy friend, Beer. At least according to the sound logic presented in the comparative “beer” an “democracy” maps below:


Then there’s my favorite quote about our fine fermented friend, which comes from one of our founding fathers, Ben Franklin, who said: “Beer is proof that god loves us and wants us to be happy.”

But wait, I have one moreexciting fact! did you know that April 7th  is National beer day?! That’s right. Our great United States and the powers that be recognize this national treasure as something to be honored with a day of focused appreciation.

In light of this context that is no doubt worthy of celebration, I have decided, in my narcissistic wisdom, that I ought to write a toast to honor our sudsy buddy in appreciation of its irreplaceable place in our lives and on our bar tabs. So here it goes:

An Ode to Beer

 In our hearts and minds

Traditions bind

Of rituals we hold dear.

Like finding friends

When the workday ends

To share an ice cold beer.

 In any season

For any reason

Be you rich or poor

Taking time to stop

We pop our tops

And enjoy just one more.

To suds with class

We raise a glass

For a spirit tried and true.

Whether lager or ale

We say “all hail!”

To America’s favorite brew!

Be sure to incorporate this as a toast when you buy your first round of beer on National Beer Day.  Or tonight.

And thanks again to my sponsors at !


Categories: American Culture, Consumer Anthropology | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Customer Social Responsibility The New “CSR”?


Sometimes work and life go together.  For Narcissistic Anthropologists like me, this phenomenon happens more often than not.

For the last several months I have been building momentum as a partner at Culture Agency in Atlanta, GA.  In the new year we made an official commitment to, at all costs, only work with clients and on projects that we feel will move human culture forward.

I sit here today, typing out my point of view,  in awe and gratitude for the response we have gotten from our community of clients and fellow strategy practitioners.  It has been amazing to the see the shift in momentum in corporate and “consumer” culture and couldn’t be more pleased to be a part of it.

I wrote the blog below for our company page- but life and art are one so I felt compelled to share here.

Empowering a New Era of CSR: Customer Social Responsibility

Corporate Social Responsibility has been a mainstreaming trend in business for the past decade or more. The intentionality of corporations to make it a point to use their resources as a source of social good is a direct reflection of evolving cultural values. To quote Ryan Honeyman from the B Corp Handbook,

“Business is, for better or worse, one of the most powerful forces on the planet. At its best, business encourages collaboration, innovation and mutual well-being and helps people to live more vibrant and fulfilling lives. At its worst, business and the tendency to focus on maximizing short-term profits – can lead to significant social and environmental damage, such as the BP Deepwater horizon Oil spill or the loss of more than $1 trillion in global wealth in the 2008 financial crisis.”

In reaction to a string of global phenomenon of the aforementioned “for worse” part and thanks to the powder keg of awareness and transparency that has been sparked by connectivity, we have seen the responsibility for creating positive social change become distributed with a new balance of power that is fueling significantly stronger momentum. Where the world once relied on the power of governments and their peacekeeping forces to reactively defend (or keep at bay – depending on the government) human rights and try, in the midst of the constant struggle, to carve out room for progress, we now see corporations and civil society realizing both their influence and their obligation.

Three sociological spheres that used to orbit one another, accessing the light of truth separately and unequally depending on their position, are now traveling on a shared path. Civil society has asserted its power to drive social change. The growth and impact of NGOs like the Human Rights Campaign and have made great strides in areas like marriage rights for Gay and Lesbian couples and battling Climate Change. Crowd-sourced movements like Occupy raise voices and awareness around income inequality.

When it comes to directing change in the corporate sphere, people are exercising their influence by exercising their wallets – being choiceful about purchases based on their values. People who are passionate about reclaiming the food supply and eating with sustainable health in mind might seek out only those food brands and products that are certified organic or certified non-GMO. Some who care about solving problems related to income inequality might choose one brand over another because they know a portion of the profits (or products) from that company are given to humans in need.

If one trend is clear, it is that more and more “customers” are putting on their “human” hat when they choose how to spend their money. Transparency and corporate social responsibility play an increasing role in our evolving social contract. But as corporations and civil society are finding synergies, new innovations in brand-to-human engagement are arising.

In particular, civil society is realizing that money is not the only powerful force driving social change. Sure, it helps and is a great start and an energetic catalyst. But momentum isn’t driven by bank accounts. It’s driven by action. Change can’t happen unless human hands take those resources and do something with them.

Many businesses leaders in industries across the board have been seeing this light as well. Here’s a little secret about how that’s coming to bear…. lean in closely…

…business leaders are also “customers” and “humans!”

I know. I just blew your mind (insert wink here).

But the other plain fact is that business leaders are the ones who have the power to change the world for the better. Not only do they know it, but they are feeling more and more empowered to embody it the more civil society raises its voice.

According to the co-founders of B Lab, quoted from the same book mentioned above:

“Business leaders are the rock stars of our time. But the rock stars of the next generation will be different from the rock stars of today. These rock stars will build companies that are both high growth and high impact. These rock stars will make money and make a difference – at the same time.”

I tend to think that the trend in better business is heading to a new era of CSR – evolving from Corporate Social Responsibility to a shared ownership rooted in Customer Social Responsibility.

I’ve mentioned a couple of examples of this sort of kindness-in-action before, with Airbnb’s One Less Stranger campaign and Unilever’s Project Sunlight.

I bring them up here again as an example of corporations truly engaging their customers to do something above and beyond using their wallets to affect change. Rather, these two programs encourage customers to get out there and DO something that makes the world better, whether it be a small action like sharing some hot chocolate and a conversation with a “stranger” or downloading a toolkit to help provide guidance on how to start or participate in food sharing programs for the hungry.

This is good news for both businesses and their customers – because it means that we have an opportunity to make life better by reminding us of our power to make this world the caring place we all want it to be by not just putting our money where our mouth is, but also our energy and our time.

Here at Culture, we are proud to work with a number of such business leader “rock stars” who inspire us every day by their willingness to find ways to engage both their organizations and their customers to connect with our shared core human values and make the world a more “human” place for everyone. After all, the first step toward “Customer Social Responsibility” as a part of any business is understanding what drives those customers at their very core and choosing to connect with the highest order values and beliefs that give us permission to share the love.

To see this content in its original form or to read more “Culture” perspectives, click the following link:

Categories: Anthropology, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, CSR, sociology | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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Abigail S. Holbrook, MSW, LCSW, LLC

Counseling and Consulting in Athens, Georgia


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