I wasn't kidding when I said a lot of people posted interesting stuff.
Here is an introduction to the concept of brand identity (scroll down a lot). It's a hot subject in marketing right now - all over the world. There are dozens of books about it, several of which I have read. This post stands above the rest because it is located at "you_are_the_bra.html".
The core concept is simple: where we used to identify ourselves by the places we go to and the jobs we have, these days we identify ourselves by brand. Why is that?
Well, to use my earlier post about the "4th gen" of communication, we no longer identify with places or jobs. Those two things that, until the past few decades, determined almost the entirety of what sort of environment we lived in and were shaped by.
Now, it's easy for a library clerk, the sports fanatic, and a CEO to chat together on line. Such recombinations are unavoidable. What are our new environments?
Regardless of what they ARE, which is hard to nail down but undoubtedly related to social meta-geography, they are easy to measure against known "sign posts".
Back when, the "sign posts" were "Shoe Salesman" or "The Nicks! Wooo!" Nowadays, there are some other signposts - "blogging", for example. The old ones haven't really worn off yet - our physical location and actual duties still affect us. But the biggest sign posts are BRANDS.
"I'm an Apple Guy", "I'm a Harley Fan". These identify you, because these brands have staked out a claim on a very well-mapped part of our "social meta-geography". They are giant signposts, familiar both to locals and foreigners.
It's not that brands are "gaining power" - it's just that they are tapping into a power which, until this proliferation of communication, was too rigidly local to tap. A power which, until recently, was hogged by physical locations, notably churches and sports arenas.
There, you have my opinion on the matter. I'm sure we'll all sleep better knowing what I think. ;)