Rooting Through Family Stuff for Marketing Wisdom

In the digital age, with the increasing "dematerialization" of products, brand managers need to start asking, How important is my brand in what you are loyal to?
Two individuals forming a heart with their hands

The essentials

How we view our possessions is undergoing a radical change, and brand managers need to start asking, How important is my brand in what you are loyal to, says researcher Linda Price Professor of Marketing at University of Arizona. Price outlined her research during a Queen's School of Business presentation.

Marketers need to shift their focus from what makes possessions special to how possessions are special to peoples’ lives, says Linda Price, professor of marketing at University of Arizona.

In a research presentation at Queen's School of Business, Price spoke about the changing views of “family stuff” in the digital age and the implications for brand managers. “There are sweeping changes in how we think about and immerse ourselves in the material world,” she said.

The increasing dematerialization, where much of our “family stuff” is digitized and stored on remote servers, is changing how we view and interact with these objects, Price said. She pointed to her daughter’s music and photographs, which are no longer physical objects. “She has a negligible trace of ownership of what she considers her music,” she said.

Price can foresee the day when such heirlooms, or “indexical objects,” are things of the past. “I think the indexical object will be dead,” she said. “Maybe it will still have a place in people’s hearts, but it’s only going to be one of those things that has high material, high imaginative, and high expressive capability.”

A new view of brands

The changing view of our relationship to family stuff extends to the role of products in our homes. Price said that objects not only play a functional role but can affect our lives and relationships. She learned that when her family purchased the Nintendo Wii video game console. In no time, the Wii created demands, such as “I need more room, get rid of that glass table” and “I’m going to keep you inside”. The object itself can change the way we interact with each other, Price said, and the same holds true for services and brands as well.

What does this mean for brand loyalty? Price said marketers need to change the question they ask from “How loyal are you to my brand?” to “How important is my brand in what you are loyal to?”

As an example, she cited the American retailer Target. “I may not tell you that I’m loyal to Target, but if I ask you about brands that are important to the people that you’re loyal to, Target shows up a lot.”

Sparrow McGowan 

Smith School of Business
Goodes Hall, Queen's University
Kingston, Ontario
Canada K7L 3N6

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