20: Ownership Anxiety, Brand Storytelling, and the Human Condition


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Have you ever stopped to think about what ownership means to us as a culture? Many of us see it as an artifact of the legal system or something that’s decided in courts. We believe it is a self-evident concept that lives outside of us and isn’t really part of who we are, but rather a set of rules that affects our mortgages and our car payments.

But ownership is in fact very much a part of what makes us human.

Today and throughout history, a mere six competing stories of ownership have dictated how everything in the world is distributed. As resources have become scarcer, everyone from American homesteaders and ranchers, to tech leaders and consumer brands, have created ways to impose their own preferred ownership story in a world where what it means to “own” something is constantly evolving.

We speak with Michael Heller and James Salzman, two of the world’s leading scholars and authorities on ownership, and co-authors of the book Mine!: How The Hidden Rules of Ownership Control Our Lives to understand how the concept of ownership has been upending the brand landscape.

They explain to us how the rules of ownership change in every generation, and how those changes reveal the true brand frontier, the role of business, and most importantly, a society’s shifting values.

Links to interesting things mentioned in this episode and further reading:

For more brand strategy thinking:


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