The Thinker (1)Image via Wikipedia

Identity is a pretty complex “umbrella” concept that gets tossed around a lot. If you talk to someone in business/marketing, identity covers everything from a company name and logo, to an entire image or perceived set of values in the marketplace.

If you talk to a social scientist, they’ll use identity to describe a person’s expression of their individuality. Indeed, social psychologists will see identity as it relates to self-image. They will describe to you how people develop mental models of themselves at the individual level.

Years ago, your identity as an individual was pretty fixed. And, if you lived in a caste society…you basically had no chance to develop a new identity. In our increasingly homogenized global world today, however, identities are more fluid. People often struggle to discover their identity (identity crises happen). Some even look to the marketplace of ideas and commerce for answers. Savvy brands are able to step in and articulate lifestyles or create symbolic worlds that people identify with, filling a void.

Thoughts on what this says about our culture in 2010 aside, how can brands discover this magic identity juice? New age brand building will tell you to turn inside to discover how to build a great brand and unlock that hidden identity that everyone loves. Meditate…hole up in a forest and you’ll come back with a solution.

I’m all for reaching deep inside from time to time, but sometimes we just need to form a vision & start going–start reaching outwards instead of focusing on our navels. Having a bias for action instead of waiting for the field of dreams is a key ingredient in moving anything important forward. All too often mental mind models don’t translate into action plans that change the future.

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