Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Desire Code

I have been posting thoughts as I go through the book Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are. This week I would like to examine his idea of what he terms the "desire code." And no, it's not about whatever just popped into your head.

Rob Walker states that there is a fundamental tension between two desires that is shared by almost every human being:

  • We all want to feel like individuals.
  • We all want to feel like a part of something bigger than ourselves.

How we generally resolve the tension is by joining a group that seems distinctive because it represents our own individuality. Yet it is still a group. But it makes us feel important as an individual. I hope you get the picture.

He uses the story of skateboarders, who felt like they were outsiders and started forming groups. These groups provided a distinctive identity that made them feel good as an individual but also gave them a group of friends and a network of like-minded people.

I know as I read those two bullet points, I was like "Yeah, I want to feel like I'm unique and not just a part of the Borg. The last thing I want to feel like is some statistic that represents the average Joe (sorry Joe) that gets lost in the crowd. Forget Where's Waldo - where's John?" And then, "Man, I don't want to do this by myself. I kind of like people, especially when they aren't annoying me."

Walker's point is that in an age in which there is very little qualitative difference between products, brands help provide that connection with distinctive groups and identities that we wish to be a part of. As we do so, we also help interpret and create the identity, and the identity can can evolve beyond the control of the people who produced the product.

What I would like to ponder is the identity that I am pursuing. It certainly isn't a linear or singular identity - life if far more complex than that. But am I happy with the my own personal brand that people identify with me, or am I just settling for a common denominator that surrounds me?

There is a game called Imaginiff that is quite fun. You and your friends write down the names of people on the board, and when it is time for that name to be used, a card is drawn and something like this is read:

"Imaginiff ______ were a breakfast. What would she/he be?"
1. coffee and the wall street journal,
2. muesli and fruit,
3. croissant and cafe latte,
4. sausages, bacon, and eggs,
5. vitamin b injections,
6. pancakes.

Then everybody who is playing chooses the number that corresponds to what they think ___________ is, and put it upside down on the table. When everyone decides, you flip them over to see which one got the most votes.

So what if you emailed your friends and asked, "Imaginiff I was a brand. What brand would I be?"

I think it might be good to go shopping every once in a while to see if there might be a better brand, maybe an upgrade. Go for the best quality brand that you can be.

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