Mr. Derek Thompson's article "Turning customers into cultists" in The Atlantic states: "… all advertising is manipulation".
What is a brand? "… to economists, the definition is simple: a brand is a signal, good or bad, that influences a consumer’s decision to buy a product."
This is an interesting article with a plethora of perspectives, yet leaving the amorphous concept brand as it is.
I believe that a brand is a singularity deposited in an individuals mind at a specific point in time in their lives based on their socio-demo-econo-graphic status, and cultural influences. Excellent examples exist among immigrants to the United States who have had brand images imprinted on their minds and when they can afford it, buy the imprint, no matter how lousy the product.
Marketing is the realization of the singularity with products focused on specific segments of the brand's competition field. Advertising is a means to market. According to the article:
"Advertising thrives in markets where consumers are essentially clueless, often because quality is hard to assess before you buy the product (medicine, mattresses, wine). But on sites like Amazon or eBay, and across social media, information from other sources—ratings, reviews, comments from friends—is abundant. We’re more likely to trust these signals precisely because they aren’t beamed from corporate headquarters."
What about the cult of brand's personality:
"In 1984, the British sociologist Eileen Barker published The Making of a Moonie, a seven-year investigation of the Unification Church, based on interviews with members of one of America’s most popular cults. While many cults are portrayed as preying on the poor and uneducated, and particularly people from broken homes, Barker discovered that Moonies tended to be middle-class, with college degrees and stable families. The cult inculcated new members through simple techniques: weekend retreats, deep conversations, shared meals, and, most seductive, an environment of love and support."
And regarding Apple:
"From its famous hammer-smashing “1984” ad against IBM to its 1998 commercial “Crazy Ones,” Apple has been deliberate in reinforcing an us-against-the-world ethos. The fact that it has preserved its devoted following while becoming larger than its opponents “shows that culting is useful, even when it’s misleading,” Escalas says."
I believe the answer is well discovered and articulated by Mr. Douglas Atkin, author of The Culting of Brands:
"“The common belief is that people join cults to conform,” Atkin wrote. “Actually, the very opposite is true. They join to become more individual.”"
What other brands in the world have a cult following, empowering the individual to feel … "empowered"!?
Enjoy the article here.