Wednesday, January 5, 2011

branding iron

Seriously people, this year on my corner of the world won't all be about Alice in Chains, generational conflict, and the travails of life in the Rust Belt.

Randal is way more entertaining than myself about a book that came through here about personal branding and I honestly don't know what planet some of these people live on. It had to do with shampoo and a trademarked "YOU" or something and talked about how the reason women are sexually harassed is because they don't wear proper business attire and that men are judged by what shoes they wear.

Because women are "totally asking for it" and we should judge a man by the pattern on his tie. Right.

It's bad enough to be judging someone by what brands they wear, but when we start talking about what brand a person IS and that some are more desirable than others, well, what the heck? And we do judge if we're honest. I don't tend to trust people who wear expensive suits who want me to vote for them or who try to sell me something, and I can't take someone's ideas seriously if they can't spell.

I guess we call this labeling and typecasting by any other name which I thought was a bad thing and there's this strange cultural social Orwellianism of all of us theoretically being equal but some of us still being much more equal than others.

I like to give my boomer compadres a hard time, but my fellow millenial spawn appear to be taking the narcissism to a whole new level and we don't even get some good music or something resembling the civil rights movement out of the deal. Just a lot of tweets and likes.

I really wonder about my generation when I see these other people who are my age who have bought into this whole idea of not just marketing as something you do to pay your bills, but as something you make a life out of because you're just so damn special and so damn interesting in a calculated kind of way.

And I know I don't work in an environment or culture with such individuals, and they probably don't attend the esteemed academic institution I work for because they consider state schools beneath them. I wonder where these people live, where they party, how they sleep at night, what kind of relationships do they have? Clearly they don't live here, I think, having blown this popsicle stand for places like Chicago and either coast. Their parents probably live in a nice house and wouldn't talk to mine because we don't have any social capital.

But then I remember that there was this guy when I was at Kent who was my age but throughout undergrad wore suits every day and was one of those people who everyone knew and all that. I think he's probably gone on to be successful and I guess people like him are the kind of people that get things done but that's just not how I roll I guess.

And the subbacultcha is all about the personal brand just in a collective tribal sense... having the right haircut, the right band t-shirts and accessories, the right attitude, and it can be just as catty as any celebutante reality show, only with a heavy dose of sour grapes and "at least I'm not like THAT" thrown in.

So I look at these nebulous questions like "What is YOUR personal brand?" or "How does your appearance enhance your brand?" or people promoting a "personal brand toolkit." It's already a soul-sucking enterprise to sell things, but to sell yourself often at the expense of others...

I don't even have words and it sounds childish and immaturely punk rock to say corporate whore but what kind of other real description is there? Not that I'm advocating the absurdity that is Adbusters, and it's true that people do still judge, but to wholeheartedly embrace it seems so profoundly wrong.

Speaking of branding, this one was big among my old crew back when Sub Pop was awesome.

I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me? I look pretty good but I'm just back-dated as it is.


Randal Graves said...

I never knew that non-conformity meant having over 36k followers on Twitter. We're doing it wrong!

More Alice!

Jeff Hershberger said...

There will come a time when they will co-opt the word "authenticity", and on that day, we will have to find another word.

That said, I have a lot of acquaintances--a lot of bloggers, especially--who take personal branding seriously. They're not oily about it, but they're probably not people you'd put on your right hand column either.