January 23, 2004
Flow Labs
Ryan Mahoney
Identity Good
Morale by Gottfried Helwein
I had never heard this term before: Identity Good. I read it from Eric Raymond's weblog and I had a perfect ah hah! moment.
If you aren't a marketing executive or haven't read Raymond's blog lately, an identity good is a product that people buy to express their personal identity. Take Jay-Z's The Black Album for example. I could have downloaded all the songs from Kazaa and burned it to a CD. But no, I went down to the store, plopped down my $10.99 (it was on sale) and took the CD home. If you happen to be in my bedroom and notice the CD cover on my desk you might think damn... Ryan is more ganster than I thought he was. Yeah dog. That's what identity goods are all about. Hope!
Raymond makes the argument that giving away the digital substance of an identity good promotes the sales of their physical counterparts because they raise awareness while not fully satisfying the ego of the consumer. I have to agree with him for the time being, but I suspect (as does the Recording Industry of America) that at some point the identity value of a these goods could be gleaned from a digital version or artifact such as displaying your playlist on your personal website. The social transaction would be the same and you wouldn't have to look like a sucker for paying for what everyone can get for free. Besides, when was the last time you threw out an .mp3 because it was scratched?
Thinking about identity goods reminds me of when I was in high school and read about how R. Buckminster Fuller stopped talking for two years. I conducted my own small linguistic experiment at the time and stopped talking for a few days. Each time I was about to say something I would try to catch myself and think about my intentions instead of speaking. I found most of what I wanted to say promoted my personal sense of identity or attempted to shape how others perceived me. Not unlike this weblog I'm writing right now... maybe identity goods are here to stay!
It's all good. Sometimes you need to wear the bottoms of your trousers rolled up like J. Alfred Prufrock... go for it... just make sure you eat the peach if you know what I'm saying. Nah mean?

back to the top