Hero or Outlaw: How Archetypes Can Tell A Brand Story


In 2001, The Hero and The Outlaw introduced the branding world to the use of archetypes. The book reminds us that humans relate to stories with strong characters, and that storytelling has an important place in marketing.

According to Carl Jung, mythic characters—or archetypes—are ingrained in our collective unconscious. We use them to understand the world. So if marketers align their brand with an archetype, and mirror that archetype’s role, they’ll build emotional connections with their customers. This sort of alignment elevates brands from fulfilling a need to being a beacon of values. It’s a brilliant purpose (and powerful burden) for any brand.

Nowadays, archetypes have a mainstream presence in brand strategy. But with the choice to rely on archetypes as a storytelling device, there are key considerations every marketer should be mindful of.

1. There should be careful consideration of authenticity and context in the casting of brand archetypes.

If a brand uses an archetype, it must do so with care. The human psyche has a surprisingly sensitive B.S. meter. So brands must discover the right archetype, as well as the right context for that archetype.

Most often, brands cast themselves as the central character in the story. But this isn’t always the right approach:

First, the central character usually relies on help from other characters. The moral of most stories is that you cannot accept only one way of being; we need different energies in balance to navigate the journey.
Second, not all archetypes are intended for a lead role. Different archetypes mirror different human values: order, freedom, ego, and social connection. Each of these has significant value to the moral but isn’t necessarily the center of attention.
The challenge many brands face when using archetypes is removing their ego from the equation. They must step back and decide who is at the center of their story—themselves or the customer—and align their archetype accordingly.

2. What role does your target customer play?

Here’s another point of discussion to consider and one that appears to be missing from the archetypes conversation: in brand storytelling, there needs to be careful consideration of the role of the core customer, and their persona, in the story.

Sometimes they’re not a character in the story at all; they’re just an engaged listener seeking an escape. Therefore, at the most basic level, you should consider how relatable your archetype might be to your intended audience, presuming they are mere consumers of (and not players in) the story.

Typically, however, if your customer is engaging with your brand, they are as much a part of your story as your brand is a part of their story or context. They are one of the characters being served by or interacting with your brand’s archetype. So, you might consider that your customers aren’t always in need of rescue – requiring a Magician or Hero. Sometimes they just want a companion, like a caregiver, lover, or “regular guy” to be with them on the journey – or even a scapegoat like a Jester or Outlaw to give them freedom to indulge.

And, yes, sometimes they aspire to be the Hero themselves. It’s all relative to the role that a brand might play in their lives.

3. Archetypes should guide brand behavior as well as communication.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, if a brand is going to choose an archetype like a Magician or Hero, they need to really give something to the world besides just selling a product. A brand that takes on a Hero archetype, for example, has to tell a story that shows they are quite literally following a call to save the world. That’s probably not related to a specific product, but to the way they behave as a company. That’s why Hero brands like Nike nail it so well: they empower a higher order social ethos. They don’t just sell sneakers and t-shirts.

A Magician brand, on the other hand, likely provides an outcome that might seem impossible or magical. But the brand can deliver that unlikely outcome thanks to unique product intrinsic functions. Sure, there are emotional benefits there as well. But the end benefit is focused on helping someone get out of a jam.

It might seem, at the outset of a brand archetype journey, that once you have found your archetype, the communication strategies become clear. But the context in which your brand engages with the world is more complex and requires mindfulness. The human psyche runs deep, and archetypes are not just window dressing.

In conclusion, here are three related questions every brave brand should ask when aligning their brand with an archetype:

1. What are the functional and emotional benefits your products provide? Translate those benefits into the role the brand plays in the lives of consumers. Is it solving a major problem? Providing amusement? Dispensing wisdom?

2. What do you know about your customer’s overall lifestyle and values? What role do they want to play in the story? Are they aspiring heroes waiting for the kind of empowerment your brand offers?

3. What is your brand’s purpose? What good does your brand serve beyond your product’s intrinsic function? Will your choice of archetype determine how your brand behaves in the world beyond marketing communications?

Want to have a brave conversation about your brand and how archetypes can help tell your story? Give us a shout and let’s start creating the story together.

*This piece was originally written for the Scout Big Brave Idea’s Blog. Click here for more brave thinking from my fearless coworkers.

Categories: Advertising, Branding, Marketing, Uncategorized | Tags: | Leave a comment

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

Coming Together Over Free Coffee: A Starbucks Political Statement and Marketing Magic


The U.S. political environment is pretty bound up these days with the debt ceiling crisis and government shutdowns, etc.  All the CNN and MSNBC addicts among my readers (I imagine quite a few) are likely well aware.  If you look to your Facebook and Twitter feeds you will likely see lots of griping and general dissatisfaction with the inability of our government to be able to work together as a team to solve our financial problems in an effective manner.

How do you get politicians to play nice?  If you watch political dramas on TV (aside from the aforementioned “non fiction” news channels)  like House Of Cards on Netflix or on MovieBox on mobile, then it might seem counter-intuitive and darn near impossible.  But Starbucks CEO Howard Schulz would like to think that we can all get along and encourage collaboration – ease the bind in our governments bowels by lubricating the works with a steaming hot cup of coffee!  In that spirit, there is lots of “free marketing buzz” around the  Starbucks free brewed coffee promotion  being activated this week at Starbuck’s nationwide.

The concept:  today through Friday if you buy a cup of coffee for a friend or coworker you get one free.   The political message Starbucks is serving up:  let citizens lead by example by demonstrating a spirit of generosity, togetherness and collaboration.   Obviously more of a marketing ploy to tap in to the political sensibility of those first-worlders with enough taxable income to be concerned about the debt crisis (and spend several dollars a day on coffee) than an effective political activism tactic – but it leverages a warm fuzzy social fact that connects well with the brand – the idea of coffee as a social lubricant in America.

I applaud Starbucks for being so intuitive with their brand strategy in that regard.   Just like tea in Great Britain (and Asia for that matter), cigarettes in China (among only-child teens and twenty-somethings  who seek to make friends by sharing smokes) and other forms of social bonding over consumables – Coffee in the US represents the spirit of community.  It’s why Starbucks was able to so successfully launch a “third space” coffee house chain whereby people can find another place to be and hangout over hat’s not their office or a bar but still offers a stimulating incentive to get together.  The coffee house trend became popular during the Beat era in the US and saw a resurgence during the 90’s.   This was reflected in popular culture with TV shows like Friends  where the cast of New Yorker characters would regularly meet at the “Central Perk” coffee house to catch up and bond over life’s big and little situations.  🙂

It’s a far cry to think that congress can solve the world’s problems by integrating some slow-drinking caffeine and cozy couches into their collaboration process. Methinks a bottle of Jack Daniels would go a little further, but I digress.

In any case – this narcissistic anthropologist can appreciate some good strategy – albeit a bit transparent – when she sees it.  I raise my cup of Joe to the marketers who can find ways to make political statements while also making money.

Categories: American Culture, Anthropology, Branding, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Culture, Marketing, Politics, pop culture, Rituals, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

In Jeans We Trust: Celebrating 140 Years of Levi’s


If I asked you where Jeans were invented I be your first guess would likely be AMERICA! Or maybe it would be China – given where most of the things we buy are made.

Fact is you would me mostly correct. Even though the fabric that today we call Denim comes from Nimes, France – the denim work pant and what has evolved into modern-day Jeans, was brought to you buy Mr. Levi Strauss – and Levi Strauss and Co. celebrates 140 years of an Iconic American brand today!

According to

“Levi Strauss came to the United States from Germany when he was eighteen. He worked for his family’s business in New York. He traveled about the United States selling cloth, thread, buttons, and other goods for his family’s business in New York. During the Gold Rush, Strauss’s sister moved to San Francisco and opened a store with her husband. They invited Levi Strauss to join them.


Strauss went to San Francisco, bringing several bolts of cloth to sell for tents and wagon covers. The canvas cloth turned out to be the wrong kind for tents, but perfect for work pants. Strauss’s work pants became popular with miners and ranchers. These workers needed clothes that were sturdy enough for rough outdoor work.

When Strauss ran out of canvas, his brothers in New York sent him denim fabric, which was easier to sew. He dyed the denim blue to hide stains from the dirt that miners and ranchers worked in. The pants were later made with copper rivets to make the pockets stronger. The new design, called “Levis,” was a huge success.”

And what has sustained their success to this day?  I would say it rides on both the strength of their brand: which has remained committed to an identity rooted in the hard-working, American-bootstrapping ethos.  I would also say it has a lot to do with how they run their business.  I have actually done a good amount of work for Levi’s over the years and if there is one thing I know for certain about that company, it’s that they have a relentless commitment to incorporating an understanding of human and cultural insights into their business.  I have personally traveled the world on their behalf unearthing differences and commonalities among emerging middle class youth to help them develop an accessible denim and apparel brand for global youth.  I have heard the stories of the project that lead to the structure of their recently re-launched women’s business – where there is a perfect fit for every body type (thanks to the tens of thousands of women’s who’s measurements they took around the world to figure out how to end the self-esteem draining jeans shopping process and create something empowering).

And certainly no company is perfect but it stands to reason that they are doing something right.  How many American companies or brands can you name that have stood the test of time like Levi Strauss?  Chances are you can count them on one hand.

So, today  I give a Narcissistic Anthropologist shout-out to Levi Strauss for inventing my favorite article of clothing – JEANS!




Categories: American Culture, american History, Branding, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Marketing, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Hipsterization of Marketing and What it Means for Consumer Culture


I would once again like to thank my Canadian colleagues for being an endless source of inspiration for my blog. And this time it has nothing to do with maple syrup!

Indeed the article I have copied below from is all about one of my favorite consumer anthropology topics: Hipsters! But it goes one step further and speaks to the consumption focused roots of hipster culture and how it has influenced marketing.

It speaks to the fact that the genesis of this culture, which had its nucleus in Brooklyn and spread to pockets around the U.S. and the developed world, did not emerge as a political protest or even necessarily an economic one, but in truth as a movement in consumerism . Namely, you have a group of young, socially minded people who wanted to keep their consumption close to home: support local businesses, buy things that represented their local culture and support a simpler way of back-to-basics living.

Obviously a trend that caught on like wildfire because of folks like YEAH! Local whose job it is to explore culture and report back to the marketing, brand and product development folks on how they should fine tune their strategies to stay ahead of the trends. Sometimes this goes awry with products like “artisanal” Tostitos (mentioned below). But sometimes it goes terribly right like with Levis domestically produced Jeans.

Essentially, what the article below proposes is that while the founding hipsters may be migrating out of Brooklyn for less marketed pastures, the consumer culture they have influenced is one that should and likely will stick around a while. Why? Because it’s actually good for us to inject a little more authenticity into our lives. We can get lost in the weeds of conspicuous consumption sometimes and there is virtue in supporting a smaller local economy and perhaps valuing the idea of moderation and less is more.

And btw, I would say that should go for facial hair as well. Just one totally non-objective opinion.

Enjoy the read.

May 07, 2013  |  Bruce Philp for Canadian Business

Column: Hipster Marketing 101

They’ll pay if the product feels personal

When a forest reclaims lost ground, poplars are often the first trees to prosper. They grow quickly, hold the soil together so other things can grow around them, and look fetching from a distance. They don’t last very long, as trees go, but they do an indispensable job in nature. They give a forest a second chance. In this poetic metaphor, in case you were wondering, the forest is marketing. And the poplars are the excruciatingly hip borough of Brooklyn, N.Y.

The phenomenon of Brooklynization has officially reached the point where the cool kids who couldn’t shut up about it 10 years ago now dismiss it as fad. Punditry is thick on the ground. Even as its groovy formula for urban renaissance is repeated in cities around the world – often with explicit reference to the original – the back-to-basics affectations of Brooklynization verge on cliché. The same hand-wringing commentators who were themselves drinking artisanal beer out of mason jars only yesterday now bemoan Brooklyn’s discovery as if the tanks had just rolled into Prague.

I’m not usually one to miss out on a snark-fest, but I think those pundits might have this one wrong. The spread of Brooklynization has manifestly been good for lots of things, from inner city real estate to indie music. And if we let it, it will be transformationally good for marketing.

To understand why, you first have to get past the facial hair, the plaid shirts and the skyrocketing rents and consider how consumerism has been reimagined, there, in the shadow of Wall Street. There’s no doubt that the people who planted the first seeds of this cultural phenomenon were rejecting something, but it wasn’t consumerism. Far from it. They buy things, these people, in moderation, sure, and sometimes oddly, but they buy things. Consuming is specifically part of the deal, even if it’s only on Etsy. No, what they were rejecting was globalization.

The awesome part is, this rejection was not some empty political gesture. It was specifically a commercial one. Brooklynized consumption wanted to be closer to the provenance of its stuff. Wanted it to have a redeeming story. Wanted to display its choices as a form of self-expression. And when the world’s hippest consumers are willing to make consumerism personal again, marketing gets a second chance at relevance.

Marketers are paying attention. Made-here has become the next big thing in brand assets, heralded perhaps by Chrysler’s “Imported from Detroit” cri de coeur at last year’s Super Bowl. You have to hand it to Whole Foods for including a commercial-scale greenhouse in its new Gowanus, Brooklyn, location, even if it seems like a bit of a stunt. And Levis’ domestically produced jeans are surely a step in the right direction, even if they do cost $130. It’s suddenly becoming fashionable to think about who made your stuff and how. That’s the kind of fertile ground branded marketing hasn’t seen in a long time. And exploiting it would make for better corporate citizens in the bargain.

As with every second chance marketing gets, of course, there are those who will drive it straight into a ditch. False claims of organic ingredients are already common. Invented histories are everywhere you look, from coffee to pickup trucks. And let’s not even talk about the word “artisan,” which has become the “new and improved” of our age. I enjoy a Tostito as much as the next guy, but putting that word next to the pork rinds makes it smell of freshly jumped shark.

Still, the Brooklynization of marketing feels like it needs to stick. It would have been understandable had people just thrown their hands up in disgust and given up on branded consumerism after the mess over the past decade, and we’d be screwed if they had. Instead, they want to give it a mulligan. At the centre of it is an urge to connect with the people behind the things they buy. If that connection isn’t the very soul of marketing, I don’t know what is. Marketers need to rediscover this for themselves, while they’ve still got the protective cover of fashion. Those hipsters won’t last forever.

Bruce Philp is a brand strategy consultant and author of Consumer Republic, winner of the 2012 National Business Book Award

This story originally appeared in Canadian Business

Categories: American Culture, Anthropology, Branding, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Culture, pop culture, sociology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Is Instagram The Photographer’s Friend or Its Faux?


I love this perspective (see re-blog / link below)  from a photographer about Instagram and it’s role as an anthropological and sociological exercise.  He doesn’t label Instagrammers as “posers” like some more “serious” hipster photographers might.  Rather, he (or she?) points to the value it has in allowing us to share and bond over our lived experiences – which is ultimately pretty close in to the mission of the photographer – documenting our human existence and exposing it’s beauty, darkness and many other sides.  It also gives the not-so-confident photo-“joe” an  opportunity to try on being artistic and scientific and broadening our horizons with a few minute commitment.   We all could stand to empower our experimental sides more.  It makes us more – well – human.
The Narcissistic Anthropologist in me loves Instagram because it allows me to document my participant-observations in a way that I feel captures the essence of those experiences – adding a layer of “data” (if you will) to the image by applying a visual nuance that expresses specific semiotic cues.  For example, evoking nostalgia by using a burnt orange “toaster” filter on an image of a row of claw machines at a crowded movie theater that is noticeably void of an interested audience.
Not to mention that, If I frame a photo just right and catch my subject (be it food, canine or asinine), it makes me look like a Rock Star photographer…solidifying my omnipresent status as a legend in my own mind…

Instagram: Creating A Generation of Fauxtographers.

via Instagram: Creating A Generation of Fauxtographers.

Categories: Anthropology, Branding, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Culture, Generation Y, hipster culture, Narcissists, pop culture, sociology, Trends | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Power Of The Human Brand

This is a post I wrote a couple of years ago for my “professional” blog that I think gives some insight into why I do what undo for a living: strategic research, foresight brand strategy.

The narcissist in me is sure you are intensely curious. ;). But more importantly its actually a more common pint of view among the people who work in this business than you would think.

P.S. “psychographic” is a term related to a demographically driven psychological point of view. A data point marketers sometimes characterize their customers by or measure to understand more about their customers.

Here we go:

One of the things I enjoy most about the practice of global branding is the idea of the hunt for unifying inspiration and communication.

A sustainable global brand can not only be VERY profitable, but also has the unique power to create common culture and nurture trends and make people think. With that comes a great deal of responsibility and endless possibilities.

I enjoy looking forward to the possibilities and helping to drive innovation in brands that is not only sustainable to the brand, but sustainable to humanity and to the world.

One thing that drives me is the idea that global brands can help to unify humans; to serve as a commonality beyond race and age and economics, beyond demographics and psychographics.

I believe that we all share some pretty big “psychographics”, no matter who you are or where you live. I know this as an empirical fact. We are, after all, in the business of studying humans: behavior, motivations, culture creation and dissemination.

I also believe that the more we communicate to and with one another, the broader our circle of shared “psychographics” can get, which will ultimately make the world smaller, and all humans more familiar.

It is acceptance and internalization of this familiarity that can help all humans work together to make this world better, and make our role in it more productive and sustainable as a human race.

Who know’s what potential lies if we all work together as a “we” and there eventually are no “others”. Possibilities are endless…which means we all have a purpose.

I choose to use the power of the brand.

Categories: Branding, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Marketing, pop culture, sociology, Well-being | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Music To My Wallet: A Sociology Of Style Perspective On The Soundtrack Of Shopping


As I always say, context is everything.  Some of that context is obvious:  what you see around you and the deeply held beliefs or cultural values that you carry with you.  These things ultimately have an impact on your day-to-day actions and ultimately your behavior as a consumer – one who purchases things.  The kinder, gentler word is “customer”.  But what most customers aren’t always necessarily consciously aware of is their audio context:  the degree to which sounds create a mood / vibe that influences their behavior.  Sure, many of us intentionally seek out certain types of auditory context:  like going to see a show or listening to your favorite Pandora station:  to socialize, to help you concentrate, to get your mind off of bad news or to get you ready to party.  But when you go shopping, for instance, those choices are made for you.  And it’s a strategic choice that perhaps you might be unaware of.

Once again, I bring you the sociological stylings of Anna Akbari, who has shared an enlightening analysis of how the soundtrack of shopping impacts your spending.  You can link to the site below for even more fun content or see the article details right here:


I’m Too Sexy For This Store

The lighting is perfect, the stage is set, and the soundtrack plays in the background. You need not be on a movie set to be part of this scene — every time you set foot in a store, you’re offered a theatrical experience in which you play the protagonist. As the New Yorker article, “The Soundtrack of Your Life,” put it, retail theater is about selling emotion. And the number one way that emotion is sold — and purchased by you — is via music.

Retail stores hire “audio architects” to design a soundscape that reinforces the brand’s values and sets a climate and tone ripe for purchasing. The particular playlist you hear is selected in an attempt to complement the given environment and brand, appeal to the brand’s target demographic, and alter their mood in a way that encourages them to purchase whatever the brand is selling. It’s not about appealing to personal taste — it’s about creating an immersive experience.

Which in-store music elements affect your mind, body, and purchasing habits? Here are 5 tricks you should be aware of next time you walk into a store (and before you make your next purchase):

1. Tempo: Studies have shown that we have a physiological response to music tempos. Our heart rates increase with the beat, and slows when the tempo decreases. An upbeat tempo in a major key has been shown to positively alter a shopper’s mood — and encourage spending. Slower tempos, however, can also benefit certain types of retail environments, like bookstores, where the music is slow and mellow, encouraging shoppers to spend more time browsing and reading, and ultimately purchase more.

2. Volume: Loud music decreases the average time a consumer spends in a store, however, research indicates that per minute sales go up when the music is cranked, as in stores like Armani Exchange and Topshop. Like discount shopping, intense, pulsating music is another way that consumers may make emotionally-charged impulse purchases, only to experience buyers’ remorse once they’re home. Armani Exchange and Topshop have also taken the in-store concert experience one step further by enlisting a regular line-up of DJs to play in their stores — making the setting more of a concert, where the purchases made double as a sort of souvenir from the “show.”

3. Classical: Classical music has been proven to trigger increased spending, especially in customer service-driven stores, like Victoria’s Secret. In addition to the ways in which it affects the consumers physically, it also communicates a subliminal message of affluence — leading the shopper to believe the products are more upscale, and preparing them to spend more money. Department stores like Nordstrom and Von Maur have even gone so far as to hire a classical pianist to play in stores, transforming the retail space into an environment of civilized refinement and expensive taste.

4. Zoning: The concept of ‘zoning’ music (usually in department stores or other large retail spaces, like Toys “R” Us) involves playing different music in different areas of the store, relative to the area-specific product offerings. This strategic variation in the shopping soundtrack entertains and surprises you while you shop, keeping you uniquely engaged in each aisle.

5. Soundtracks for sale: In addition to playing carefully curated playlists in-store, one of the latest trends in retail theater and branding offers a “take it home” tactic: many stores sell CDs of their store soundtracks. Nike and Victoria’s Secret sell their branded CDs, and Starbucks has gone so far as to create an entire Starbucks-themed music subculture, and launch their own record label, Hear Music. These songs create a full-sensory brand experience while the consumer is in-store, but once the CD is purchased, the brand permeates the consumer’s domestic space and personal listening devices, like iPods. And, given the emotional connection we feel with music, this is an ideally intimate brand/consumer experience.

Want to bring the retail theater experience into your home? Check out these tips and try the DIY sociological experiment:

  • HABU is an app that organizes your music library into moods, so you can be the audio architect of your own life.
  • Like what you heard in a store, but didn’t buy the CD? Check out these store music blogs:
  • Urban Outfitters features their recent playlists and makes them free to listen and download
  • Forever 21 does a ‘spotlight’ feature on their favorite artists
  • Hollister allows you to play their featured tracks through its integrated media player

DIY Sociological Experiment: Enter a retail store (perhaps one listed above) and browse for a few minutes. Then put on headphones and tune into music that is the opposite of what’s playing in the store. Do you feel a difference?

Categories: Anthropology, Branding, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Fashion, Marketing, Music, Participant Observation, sociology, Uncategorized | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Brands Make Me Feel Like I Belong

In a number of senses, brands give me a sense of purpose. In my case this predominantly happens on a professional level. I observe, analyze, contextualize, inspire and help build / innovate / sustain brands. I am also a consumer who chooses, uses, advocates for and otherwise helps sustain brands from the flip side of the coin.

Brands are powerful. They put ideas out there for us to agree or disagree with, to ponder or identify with, or possibly spread.

Brands can communicate these ideas big and small on a local or global level based on their media and communications reach.

Brands can help us belong to something bigger or smaller depending on our need. And they can also help change the world…for the better if we let them. 🙂

I am presently reading an “oldie” but goodie in “the biz” called “The Brand Gap” – by Marty Neumeier and was inspired to today’s musings by the following page:


How do YOU feel about brands?

Categories: Anthropology, Branding, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Marketing, Participant Observation, pop culture, sociology | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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Abigail S. Holbrook, MSW, LCSW, LLC

Counseling and Consulting in Athens, Georgia


The only authority for all things beer...

Millennials at Work

Coming of Age for the Millennial Workforce


Personal, design, inspiration, interests.


Just another site




Being a popular kid isn't easy,you have to be cautious about every move of yours because you know that all eyes are on you.Not just the eyes that look up to you but also the eyes that love to see you in pain.You might have your own list of followers but with this list there exists the "popularity starved crowd" who wants to replace you.But when reality bites these morons and they're back to square one,hurt and angry with themselves they try to make you the victim of their moment of high adrenaline,just to make you suffer because you're better.They try to clean their head by ruining your perfect life.What's more is right then you realize that none of your "friends" are what they appear to be.You're broken,depressed .You feel the need to talk to someone of your own kind,someone who won't judge you and that's when you can find me at thepopularitébug,I promise to do anything and everything to help you out of your problem!Amen.

Working Self

Creating Meaningful Work with Rebecca Fraser-Thill


Often described as a blog, an online magazine, a journal. When examined further the description changes and it becomes a project, an objective, a mission. American Male is one simple thing. It is a collection of different thoughts and experiences so come share yours and be part of the narrative.

nydwracu niþgrim, nihtbealwa mæst

signals, signals everywhere / and not a thought to think


World travel and photography

entitled millennial

"any man can handle adversity; if you want to test his character, give him power"

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