Affinity: Beyond Branding

"You need to communicate the promise, not just to make the sale.  You need more values in the promise to make the brand successful."

- Affinity, page 51

In Affinity: Beyond Branding, Martin Goldfarb and Howard Aster share their wealth of experience observing and understanding consumer behaviour via a fascinating mix of market research and social anthropology.  Through their unique ability to tap into underlying cultural values, we intriguingly learn to unlock the secrets behind hugely-successful brands.

While many corporations strive to constantly re-create their image, branding “stars” attach themselves to consumers and propagate memorable values.  The end result is that people want to hear their stories repeatedly – plus return to those products year after year.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Affinity Trumps Branding

"You need to think differently in order to do things differently."
- Affinity, page 62

As defined by the authors, affinity is about feelings and bonding… a “magic” that forms the epoxy between buyers and products (as well as politicians, given Goldfarb’s long-running stint as official Liberal pollster from 1973-1992).  Think “chemistry”.

Branding, on the other hand, is a deliberate set of strategies to create recognition.  It consists of numerous elements – management, image, identity, personality, and promise.  The only thing is, brands come and go.

Solely – affinity keeps relationships tight, lasting, and enduring.  It’s the charisma of marketplace dominance; a force of attraction.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Get Really Good at Story-Telling

"Story-telling creates indelible memories…that is why stories endure."
- Affinity, page 21

Advertising is story-telling in a dramatic, concise fashion.  An eloquent expression captures the essence: “Advertising is the poetry of our times.”  People reveal themselves in their tales; they reflect society’s values.  In turn, stories tend to be told by means of advertising.

Another clue to understanding culture derives from studying its artifacts.  More than objects, they embody dreams.  They bring meaning, satisfaction, and self-definition.  Humans absorb their power and character.

Evidence the story and “totem” of Wonderbra.  Searching for novel ways to conceptualize “foundation garments”, late-1960’s San Francisco interviews in hotbed topless bars birthed a new signature brand called “Dicey”.   A risky proposition, the sheer bra packaged in a cube captured an evolving culture.

What Wonderbra learned (and the best story-tellers know) is that listening to people is key.  The market researcher’s art is to discern not only what’s being said but also to interpret the drivers beneath what YOU think, what YOU see, how YOU perceive your conditions…  Like a children’s legend endlessly requested, the iconic message (supported by commercials and advertising) of “We care about the shape you’re in” endured for two decades and even today remains embedded in many a long-term memory.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Learn From the Best

"You cannot be an agent of change unless you are willing to change."
- Affinity, page 17

Citing an example men and women can relate to – diamonds – DeBeers built upon pioneering work crafted by the Ayers Agency in 1933 defining, “diamonds are forever”.  1987 study results proposed associating the anthropological concept of a “potlatch” with diamonds, whereby the gem became central to at least four life-stages celebrated.  A public display of wealth became tied to occasions like the 16th birthday, engagement, marriage, ten-year anniversary and 50th birthday.  The stories woven were emotional – and resulted in the phenomenal success of more diamonds sold!

Whether it’s Apple delivering a succession of innovative products (iPhone, iPad) that appeal to customers’ sensibilities and intuitions by helping them feel part of an exclusive community (even tribe)…or a hallmark of a truck brand that has survived since 1979 in the form of “Built Ford Tough”…or Petro-Canada taking advantage of Canadian nationalism at the height of the 1973 oil crisis and becoming a galvanizing sponsor of the 1988 Calgary Olympics…there’s a story here for everyone!


And that’s the beauty of this volume.

Affinity extends beyond branding because it involves “stepping out of the ordinary” into the next stage of consumer awareness and thus pushes the frontiers of global consumer consciousness.

It captures the value structure of a time, transforms product lines, creates leadership and followers, alters behavior, and redefines an aspect of our culture.

More than once throughout, marketing is described as a force for changing society.  Never thought of it that way! What an inspiring big picture!

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Carol-Ann Hamilton

ABOUT Carol-Ann Hamilton

Carol-Ann Hamilton is a dedicated Maverick, Catalyst & Pioneer-Visionary who brings three decades’ coaching and facilitation expertise to her singular goal, “Encouraging Your Greatness”...
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