Good Reason

It's okay to be wrong. It's not okay to stay wrong.

Inappropriate brand identificaton

There’s enjoyment and there’s investment.

Let’s take the band Gomez for an example. I noticed the other day that I have a lot of Gomez albums, and I like them, but I wouldn’t call myself a Gomez fan. There’s some level at which I haven’t identified with them.

On the other hand, when I first heard the Leisure Society or Seabear, it was more than just liking their stuff. I connected with them in some way that made me say “I can get behind this.” I reserved a tiny part of myself for them, and made them a part of my social identity (because listening to music is as much about social alignment as musical enjoyment).

But defining yourself in terms of musical taste might not be such a great idea. What happens if ‘your special band’ releases a disappointing second album (as the Leisure Society and Seabear both did)? Will you be able to update, or will that be too threatening to your self-image? Maybe you’ll just never listen to the new stuff, and keep thinking they’re great.

What I’m talking about is the perils of Fanboi Syndrome, and it’s the topic of this study (thanks to Kuri). Except this is about brands, not bands.

You may think you’re defending your favorite platform because it’s just that good. But, according to a recently published study out of the University of Illinois, you may instead be defending yourself because you view criticisms of your favorite brand as a threat to your self image. The study, which will be published in the next issue of the Journal of Consumer Psychology, examines the strength of consumer-brand relationships, concluding that those who have more knowledge of and experience with a brand are more personally impacted by incidents of brand “failure.”

The researchers performed two experiments, one on a group of 30 women and another on 170 undergraduate students, in order to see whether the subjects’ self esteem was tied to the general ratings of various brands. Those who had high self-brand connections (SBC)—that is, those who follow, research, or simply like a certain brand—were the ones whose self esteem suffered the most when their brands didn’t do well or were criticized. Those with low SBC remained virtually unaffected on a personal level.

Boy, do I hear this. I used to be an Apple fanboi. Well, I still kind of am, partly because I think their stuff is good, and partly because of the thousands of happy hours I’ve spent computing on the MacOS. But a little tiny part of me is heavily invested in Apple, to the extent that I have to try not to feel personally affronted if AppleHaterz bag it, and I’m likely to write off their opinion.

I used to be worse. You should have seen me in the 90s, when the Mac was an endangered species. But brand identification is something of a danger. It’s one more kind of bias that keeps us from seeing clearly. Companies shouldn’t have that kind of hold.

1 Comment

  1. Yeah, man, I was there. You were over the moon about the Mac. You wanted to marry it.

    This study seems pretty interesting. I need to take a longer look. Sounds like something I might use in my novel.

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