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As if brands didn’t need enough of a reason to build emotional connections with consumers in their 20s, an interesting article titled The Mysteriously Memorable 20s: Why do we remember more from young adulthood than from any other time of our lives?, reminds us of the importance that this meaningful stage of life plays in the construction of our identities and the way that we formulate our personal narratives.

ImageBuilding brand relationships during this crucial stage of identity formation by having even a small role in one of those integral memories of self-actualization can create extremely meaningful lifelong associations and loyalty. And if the ultimate mark of a successful brand is the ability to become so entwined in a consumer’s life that the brand has become a part of that consumer’s identity, then there is no time better than the 20s to be there with consumers as they define their self-image.

Another interesting issue that this article raises, especially for those that are in or entering their 20s, is that this period of life is not a time to be spent wondering “what if?” Memories, as the foundational aspect of our self-identification, are our most valuable possessions and the 20s are clearly an essential time for creating new and unique memories by exploring and experiencing life to its fullest.

So what are some of your most cherished memories from this formational period of life and are there any brands you associate with those memories? Do those brands play a role in your identity today and do you still have an affinity for those brands?

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“It’s like being a policeman. You analyze people the minute they are in front of you. It can be very subtle. Shoes say a lot.” – Ari Versluis, Dutch Photographer

Ari Verslui and his creative partner Ellie Uyttenbro size people up the minute they meet them. They’re not judgmental per se, they’re just accustomed to categorizing people according to style and attitude.

You see, Verslui and Uyttenbro have been scanning the crowds for similar identities for years. This is all a part of their creative process for, “Exactitudes,” a photographic collection that explores the dress codes of various social groups. Their project is rooted in a basic theory: humans use clothing, behavior, and attitude to reflect originality and identity. Versluit and Uyttenbro both explore and demystify the concept of originality in their work by handpicking pedestrians who fit a specific identity to model their “look” in a studio photo shoot. Photos are then organized by social group and fit into a grid, defusing the appearance of individuality and originality. Photographed subjects represent such social groups as “teknohippies,” “bimbos,” and “gabberbitches.”

The fifth and most recent edition of “Exactitudes” features social identities culled from the Italian café scene. Photographic stills of sweater-frocked, prickly-bearded male “Americanos” and tight-lipped, fur-ensconced women of a certain age, a.k.a”Sciura Decaffeinatas” are featured. A compelling and interesting study in the incongruities between originality and conformity in style, this is a creative project to keep an eye on. Most importantly, Verslui and Uyttenbro dare to challenge the human quest for a special and unique identity. Their work invites everyone, even those who classify themselves as subcultural, to ask: “How original are we?”

To read more about the new edition of “Exactitudes” click here. Or here.

Most people don’t have a clue what goes into designing a logo, let alone a complex identity system. Pentagram’s Paula Scher has written this little essay that takes on the common gripes and misunderstandings about identity design, specifically, What They Don’t Teach You About Identity Design in Design Schools.

For what it’s worth, this is my favorite passage…

I never knew a designer that got hundreds of thousands of dollars to design a logo.  Mostly, designers get paid to negotiate the difficult terrain of individual egos, expectations, tastes, and aspirations of various individuals in an organization or corporation, against business needs, and constraints of the marketplace.  This is a process that can take a year or more.  Getting a large, diverse group of people to agree on a single new methodology for all of their corporate communications means the designer has to be a strategist, psychiatrist, diplomat, showman, and even a Svengali. The complicated process is worth money.  That’s what clients pay for. The process, usually a series of endless presentations and refinements, persuasions and proofs, results, hopefully, in an accepted identity design.

Shoptimism. From the moment I heard the term I instantly felt a little better. Let me explain. I’ve spent most of December racking up on door-buster sales at the Durham’s South Point Mall and this past weekend’s discounts were unbelievably deep. Some stores offered 25% off full-priced items and one store in particular offered a whopping 40% off your total purchases. I bit and I bit hard.
Needless to say, after racking up all those purchases I felt, well, a little guilty. But author Lee Einsberg made me feel a little better. His new book (and coined term) “Shoptimism”, seeks to explain why the American consumer will keep on buying no matter what. According to Einsberg, shopping helps give us meaning by boosting our ego and satisfying certain emotional needs. And when it comes to needs vs. wants, Einsberg says there is no simple distinction between these consumer classifications. Sure we need shelter, but what kind of shelter? An apartment, a boat house, a shack or a mansion? Einsberg claims that we need to expand the definition of “wants” to encapsulate our emotional needs. I think Einsberg might be on to something here.
Despite the recession, our shopping malls and districts appear to be full of shoppers (even at 8:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning) and their wallets are wide open. I look forward to delving into all of Einsberg’s theories on modern selling and shopping over the holidays. I have a feeling it might soothe my shopper’s guilt. If you need some literary balm for your shopper’s guilt check out Einsberg’s book here or hear the author talk about “Shoptimism” here.