Thinking about the places and ways in which people’s lives intersect with various brands, products and services can get rather messy. We are, after all, subject to serendipity – which often borders on chaos. Think about your most prized possession, and then think about how it came to you. Now, tell me, was it planned or was there an accident involved? Was it an unexpected gift?

My bet, is that for many of you, the item that you most love has come to you thanks to a series of apparently random events.

100_7750 The thing is, however, that we often mistake chaos for randomness. It isn’t. Underlying random events is Desire as an organising principle. What this means is that we seek out, attract and are attracted to things that gratify our desires. And in the process we unconsciously order our world and make decisions and choices that obey the laws of desire – not the laws of logic. It’s why we buy things like Alfa Romeo cars and Ducati motorbikes – not because we are smart, but because we feel compelled to.

When we step onto the web, this is amplified in sometimes surprising ways.

Mike Arauz has put together a great deck that shows how this can play out. Called Desire Paths, Mike talks about the way that brands need to be begin connecting with their audiences in ways that align with an individual’s passion. He points out that these paths are OUR paths – and that they cannot be made by institutions – and therefore that brands can be invited on our journey along these paths on the condition that they are useful to the person travelling this path.

Desire paths tie-in nicely to social judgement. Certainly there is a great incentive for brands to tap into the collective power of a desire path; after all, we do not walk these desire paths alone – and technology is making it ever easier for us to find like-minded travellers all around the world. As Apple has found, good design is not just appreciated by “me” but also by “people like me” – or perhaps as Mike would term it, “people who walk with me”.

After a desire path and a brand collide in this way, the outcome is transformative – for everyone involved. For the paths that we take, and the choices we make either unconsciously or deliberately, also mark us as belonging to this tribe, or that – and this is perhaps, the heart of social judgement, and why understanding its mechanisms remains elusive.