As I considered using up the last of a Starbucks gift card this morning, something occurred to me: The guy who gave it to me had already disappeared from my life. His gift card had actually outlived our relationship (for lack of a weaker word). Sure, the fact that he gave me a Starbucks card for my birthday was definitely a red flag, but this got me thinking—no wonder our society is so brand-obsessed—our relationships with corporations are perhaps more functional than our relationships with humans.
While romantic relationships get more and more disappointing and/or boring, brands keep delivering the warm and fuzzies, and even surprise us with new and exciting products. Monogamy appears to be difficult for us to practice with each other, but we’re loyal to corporations, despite having the freedom to stray.
So maybe we’re going about the whole dating and marriage thing wrong. Rather than studying The Rules and playing hard to get, perhaps a branding campaign would be more effective. It’s the anti-game—it’s all about consistent messaging.
It would really just be a matter of bringing mating up to speed with branding. Both have similarly primitive origins. (The term “brand” comes from hot-iron branding livestock to mark ownership; mating for our ancestors consisted of man clubbing woman over head and dragging her back to cave.) But branding appears to have evolved a bit faster. Mating today seems more akin to 19th century branding, when patent medicine companies were hawking grain alcohol mixers as snake-oil based cure-alls. Dating tools have evolved from club to Match.com, but the strategy behind them lacks the coinciding sophistication.
We’ve already seen how successful professional branding can be for people (Oprah, Martha Stewart, Michael Jordan, etc.). Maybe romantic branding could be just as effective, although the co-branding aspect would make it a bit more complicated. But think of the magical result—not just a marriage or lifelong partnership—we’re talking synergy! Plus, even if you don’t find The One, you could at least replace tired break-up lines like “It’s not you, it’s me” and “We should just be friends” with “I’m sorry, you’re just not brand compliant.”