Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Power of Identification

Perhaps the best part of academics is hanging around with interesting people. Over the years, my colleagues have shared their passions with me. Usually at the time, the passions do not overlap, but time is a funny thing.

When I was a master's student at Kansas State, my friend Manish Gupta was interested in emotion. I was not. Now I am an emotion theorist.

When I first arrived at Indiana University as a doctoral student, my friend Mija Shin was interested in narrative. I was not. Narrative ended up being a key component of my dissertation.

Later at IU, my friend Johnny Sparks was interested in identification. I was not. Now, identification is following me around.

We are finishing (today!) an experiment that includes brand identification. We asked people many questions about their attitudes toward brands. We are trying to tease apart what underlies these attitudes. And perhaps the most amazing thing to me is that the degree to which people rate a brand as "good," "likeable," and "pleasant" is almost perfectly correlated to how much that brand is "like me."

Think about it. Sure, you drink Coca-Cola. But is it really like you? To rephrase the question, "In exactly which ways are you like Coca-Cola?" It seems absurd, but this pattern is clear through 24,800 data points. You like a brand when you identify with it. This is not groundbreaking, but it's a pretty powerful trend. I'll keep you posted as we learn more about it.


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