The overlooked relationship between status and marketing

status and marketing

I’ve been working on a new book that examines community through the lens of marketing strategy. One of the things I’ve learned about is the underlying power of status and marketing.

Of course status is the heart of marketing when it comes to luxury goods and rewards programs. But there is also a more subtle connection when it comes to community and culture.

In a normal professional or social setting, it’s taboo, or at least narcissistic, to talk about status. But when it comes to a brand community, status is everything. Status is the fuel for the engine.

Understanding the connection between status and marketing starts with the foundational idea that we all need recognition to thrive as human beings.

Status games

Will Storr, author of The Status Game, said in a podcast interview that community status is an integral part of our personal identity. “We join groups when we align with their rules of behavior,” he said. “We follow the rules, and the better we follow the rules, the higher we climb in status. We begin to dress like the people in the group, talk like people in the group, read the same kind of books, etc. We can be one person pursuing status in one group and another version when pursuing status in another community. You can’t separate the status game from our personal identity.”

“The research shows we’re happier and more stable emotionally, the more groups we belong to,” Will said. “The Whitehall Study, conducted by Dr. Michael Marmot, revealed this remarkable fact that the lower you go down the hierarchy of government, the worse people’s health outcomes became, and the greater their mortality risk. The immediate thought is, well, that’s because rich people are so privileged, they’ve got personal trainers and macrobiotic diets and all this stuff. But it wasn’t that, because even one step down from the very top, a person is still extremely wealthy, extremely privileged and yet there were different health outcomes.

“This status syndrome has been found across genders, across countries, and even in animals,” he said. “A study showed that monkeys at the top of the community hierarchy are less likely to fall ill due to their status. When a monkey’s status in the hierarchy changed, their health status changed, too.

“Status in a community isn’t just about our psychological health. It also affects our physical health.”

Every form of community has a status system either intentionally or unintentionally built in. We join communities where we see an opportunity to improve our status among a group that we care about. A person doesn’t have to be at the top of the hierarchy to feel good about being there. As the leader of my own community, I try to acknowledge and encourage people as soon as they join.

Bestowing status is much more than a practical measure to manage a growing community. Status creates emotional connection to the community (and the brand), enhances loyalty, and nurtures brand advocacy.

Status and marketing

If you think this commentary is interesting, the fun is just beginning!

Keith Jennings and I tear into this subject in a new Marketing Companion episode and discuss how status:

  • How status drives nearly all consumer behavior
  • Why culture, style, fashion, and art are driven by status
  • Why lack of status is
  • How status makes social media behavior predictable
  • The connection between status and personal branding
  • How status impacts nonprofits

This is a discussion that could change your worldview and will certainly make you think about marketing in a new way. All you have to do is click here to listen:

Click on this link to listen to hear Episode 256

Resources mentioned in this show:

Mark Schaefer’s Personal Branding Master Class

Will Storr’s book The Status Game

Book by David Marx Status and Culture

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Original illustration created by AI through MidJourney

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