A look at the ontology of emotional brand attachment

Brand ontology

I have often discussed the two types of knowledge we have about brands – pragmatic and declarative, and emotional. Our emotional knowledge is distinct from the factual knowledge in that it is not overt – it is something we ‘know’ and sense about a brand at a meta level. Let’s consider the ontology outlined above.

  • History – by this I don’t necessarily mean the brand’s history (e.g. ‘It started in 1898 when…’) but our personal history with a brand; associations, experiences and the brand’s appearance as an actor in our own history.
  • Geography – brand geography carries another set of values and associations.
  • Narrative – brands enjoy narratives of their own and often these subconscious narratives are sub-plots in our own stories and sense of self-image (we select brands whose stories give weight to our own).
  • Brand heros and archetypes are often personifications of unspoken ideals we carry in our own inventory.
  • cultural values are deeply ingrained. Brands are also manifestations of their cultural context and there are emotional dynamics where these two sets of values collide or correspond.
  • Sensory – again I want to distinguish between the obvious, factual sensory manifestations of a brand within its product or service offering and the deeper, almost Proustian emotional knowledge. For example, I had an uncle who drove a Mercedes at a time when they were somewhat less common in the UK, and was also a cigar smoker. The scent of cigar smoke is always symbolic of my uncle and inextricably linked to Mercedes – this ties in with many other emotional strands: he was somewhat of a hero to me and became woven into my own history and personal narrative.

Hopefully this map of the emotional ontology of a brand may be useful to you and I would appreciate any views to take this further.


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