In a world where distractions galore, affinity, or the art of finding elements that would combine or coalesce to hold together for a purpose is never in short supply. With small attention spans we associate with symbols of affinity, but with far less attachment than before.

Think of books and there are millions, you would at best get attracted to some symbols of affinity; if the writer is completely unknown, it will be quite a remote possibility that affinity could be easily found in the symbols associated with the new writer or the book or the ideas around the book. Well known writers do not have this problem as they exist already in the symbols of affinity and readers get attracted easily as they associate themselves with such themes. But reading of books itself is dying in the habits of the millennials, so the affinity has moved in other attractions that are more digital in nature.

The same is true in the world of art, impressionists found it impossible to penetrate the old world order when they brought in new symbolism in their canvas; to develop affinity it took several decades for art critics to get familiar with what their creations wanted to render. Today new associations, albeit weak, can be developed with ease.

New creations can die or be completely irrelevant if they cannot penetrate the veneer that separates a new symbol with the established symbols of affinity. The nature of this penetration has changed as it is never that deep rooted as before.

If large cohorts were married to a product, a new product no matter how better it could be, would have found enormous difficulty to penetrate the resistance to new associations. Today it is not so.

Human mind is lazy and it needs additional work to move to new associations while the memory holds all the best experiences with the old associations. Having a handful of associations on a given theme is better than scores of one timers. Today the millennials are more open to experiment with new associations.

If I were familiar with a brand, the product could be irrelevant to me; a new product with a new symbolism would have taken years to penetrate the resistance that my attuned mind had self-imposed. No wonder the world took several years to create new brands, which were nothing but symbols of affinity, or an experiential thought process that is not willing to experiment that easily with new things. But this is changing fast as the time to create new associations is shortening.

Branding is about finding symbols of affinity so that large cohorts find themselves bonded to the idea that is associated with the values that the brand propagates. This requires careful nurturing, communicating in a disciplined manner and taking stock of what the response it evoked.

But the old methods are changing, the normal channels of communication have changed already. For all you know you could be the brand ambassador, unknowingly, as you pass on a new product experience in your conversation to your social network.

The new symbols of affinity get easily propagated by the social media as cohorts spend time in conversations; symbols from one group to the other could get transferred so easily and with such speed that within a day it could reach millions.

The images that we see, may be hundreds of them, spark off new associations, some of them could be challenging the old affinity we had. The sheer number of new associations could be very overwhelming and that is one reason why our attachments are becoming loose.

We were buying one phone every four years, now we change phones every year, some switch brands as well, from one to the other we do not feel a great divide we have crossed.

When there are too many symbols we see, our attention span is itself far more blurred and our memories are becoming shorter still to keep the images so stored that their recall could be easily facilitated.

Research today is moving to further understand how retrievals could be facilitated, what constitutes a higher chance of success and what almost dies an instant death.

When you are looking at an image or a heading or a phrase, or just a thread of conversation, it could be very important that those that need a permanent imprint not be lost in the charade of banalities.

There are thousands of things vying for attention and with limits of our attention span, there is an apparent space constraint in our ability to act. Some of us make conscious choices to reject certain entries and keep the space clean for those which we want to spend time on that would be preserved better in our memories. This delete button sometimes does not work well while the memory space is almost full.

New associations, with a loosely arranged structure of retention, when the number of new associations are exploding exponentially, have a problem at hand; affinity becomes far more loosely arranged as well.

No wonder, from products to services to even relationships, the degree of intensity in the affinity we want to retain is loosening.

The ramification of this phenomenon and its unintended consequences are still unknown. At least one thing is sure that we would remember our childhood memories as permanent imprints, whereas yesterday’s news headlines will be lost instantly.

Symbols of Affinity and the association of ideas

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