It’s all too easy in our society to mock a person who forms brand relationships. Many charge that brand connections are dysfunctional in that they promote materialism, self-indulgence, and selfishness; and that consumers who engage in them are illogical, irrational, misguided and misinformed. This critique denies the very culture in which we live. Ours is a culture that is very much defined by consumption. In the U.S., the number one export is branded merchandise, both in the form of products and celebrities. We can critique this and lament the consequences, or we can embrace it and understand it for what it is. Are Obama’s supporters bad for society? Does love of the iPhone degenerate culture? In a foreign environment, is it dysfunctional to seek the refuge of a familiar brand?
Brands are a part of life in the 21st century. Consumers and academics must understand what this means and, at the same time, not take things too far. For example, despite research that demonstrates over and again that relationships are merely facilitators, some continue to reify brands and brand relationships. But a strong relationship develops by supporting people in living their lives, not by driving brand involvement. As I like to say, “It’s about the people, stupid.”
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