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I see your point, but I think you are defining human relationship far too narrowly. Many or most human relationships are impersonal and instrumental. This is not a bad thing. It would be exhausting to try to acknowledge every single person we encountered as an individual. And many human relationships are asymmetrical, weak and one-sided. One party wants more intimacy, the other much less (often in proportion to how much the other strives for more intimacy). And the world is full of awkward people who cross ethical lines, trying to be too businesslike and transactional in friendship or marriage, or who inappropriately exploit friendship for business (think MLM). Finally, some people are narcissistic and constantly overestimate their own importance. They have no idea how little entitlement they have to occupy the center point of everyone else's universe. If you include all these awkward, painful, failed, undesirable and ridiculous relationships in the realm of human relationships, it seems clear that brand relationships are very much a species of human relationship, judged by exactly the same standards. That's the key: we judge brand relationships just like we judge human relationships. We want a brand to read us and to respond in a socially intelligent way, choosing the right balance of intimacy and impersonality, of self-interest and liberality, of humor and seriousness, inconspicuousness and flair, etc. When we pick the wrong balance, in any direction, it doesn't leave the realm of the human, it just becomes a worse human relationship.
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Feb 24, 2012