Advertising Changes the Cultural Meaning of Products

A common misconception is that advertising creates networks of emotional associations around their product. However, according to Kevin Simler, people are not so easily manipulated. He argues instead that advertising works by "cultural imprinting." This means that advertising works by adjusting the landscape of cultural meanings around the brand or product, and thereby shifts how we believe we are perceived by others when we use the product.

For this to work, the advertisement must reach a mass audience—large enough to develop a consensus around the meaning of the brand—and remain stable, with a focused narrative.

Branding, therefore, is related to self-fashioning; we engage with brands in order to affect how others interpret ourselves.

This suggests to me that branding in industries that are not conspicuous (perhaps including insurance and investing?) needs to work differently than in other industries.


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Citation

Simler, Kevin. “Ads Don’t Work That Way.” Melting Asphalt (blog). Accessed November 22, 2020. https://meltingasphalt.com/ads-dont-work-that-way/.


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