A Brand Name Cult

It's a religion story, of sorts. Daniel Akst of The Wall Street Journal reviewed two books this past week on Brands as cultsIn "The Culting of Brands" by Douglas Atkin and Brand Portfolio Strategy by David A. Aaker.

Here's the lead:
Are cults really so bad? Veteran ad man Douglas Atkin doesn't think so. Sure, some cults arecharacterized by mindless obedience, but many
traditional organizations, including businesses, have the qualities of a cult -- without the lethal Kool-Aid, of course.

Besides the poor taste of the Kool-Aid crack (a reference to Jim Jones' ill fated Guyana sect), it's an insightful piece. Atkin's book is one I'll pick up.

Here's a couple more snippets:

  • Mr. Atkin has noticed the way that consumption has supplanted religion in many lives. "People today pay for meaning," he writes, "more than they pray for it."

  • Mr. Atkin has written an unusually readable and interesting book that focuses on how a cultlike devotion to products and brands arises from the human needs for belonging and satisfaction -- needs that may be especially acute in today's free-wheeling culture, in which ties of family, church, community and workplace seem looser than ever.

It's that line about how consumer goods meet "human needs of belonging and satisfaction" that struck me. Maybe that's why idols are so attractive--they fill those needs and ask nothing in return, except for cash. A real, live God, is much more dangerous. That tind of God demands the kind of allegiance and transformation that a MAC--one of the so called "cult brands" never will.


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