brand incentives

brand-as-business bit:  Last month we lost a great political thinker, James Q. Wilson.  In a tribute to “the pre-eminent political scientist of the last 50 years,” The New York Times described Wilson’s groundbreaking analyses of political behavior.

His work on how organizations offer incentives for people to join and support them seemed an interesting way to think about how brands attract customers:

“He distinguished three types of incentives — solidary (that is, incentives that promote solidarity), material and purposive — and he theorized that the specific type of incentive distributed by a particular group both shapes and constrains its behavior and effectiveness.

Thus, the Junior League provides solidary incentives by emphasizing the social status of and personal interactions among its members, while companies provide material incentives — i.e., money and other economic value — which buy them more tactical flexibility.

In contrast, the Sierra Club’s incentives are purposive, attracting members through its programmatic and visionary ideals. But such incentives also constrain purposive groups, which may lose support if they compromise those ideals by being too pragmatic.” [emphasis] mine

Brands attract people either through social status and community (solidary), value (material), or shared values (purposive) – perhaps the strongest brands use all three incentives?!

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