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Brands are memes

Twisted seem idea jeans

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In commercial terms, it's immediately obvious - at least to me - that the idea of a meme has a lot in common with the idea of a brand.

In fact, you could think of brands, especially the really successful ones (Persil, Audi, Nike) as (albeit inefficient) memes. Why inefficient? Because brands are not as stubborn or as effective at replication as other more commonly considered memes like religion or ideology (though I'm sure the brand owners would like them to be), and they quickly die out without intense help from marketing, and communications reinforcement to generate more of themselves.

I would go further: I think that brands (meant in the very specific commercial sense of an meticulously crafted and tended "offering" in a commercial market) are memes. The most effective brands are quite literally the most successful idea genes, the most effective at spreading themselves from mind to mind.

These memes are real, not some imaginary, theoretical construct: they have a measurable, causative effect on human behaviour. Successful brands are successful mental viruses. They pass from person to person through the words you speak, the pictures you draw, and are projected at you via the various media sources that you are exposed to all day as sounds, images or movies.

This idea - of idea genes not as metaphors, but as real causative agents - upsets a lot of people. They don't like it. It grates with their idea of themselves as unique, distinct mentalities, and introdues a messy biological pespective to their cognition that they'd rather not contemplate.

I can understand such concerns. But for me the idea points forwards, towards not yet revealed, but exciting, deeply meaningful future explanations of what sorts of thinking, feeling beings we humans actually are.

 

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