Friday, November 19, 2010

Brand Definitions and a Few More Thoughts...

Many of you have left really interesting thoughts on "brands" and "branding."  I'll be honest, I've been thinking about this all day and am really not sure I have anything new or relevant to add.  
Here were some comments today that really I appreciated and really made me think:
From J.H.:
Go behind the corporate usage and you get to the really offensive aspect of the term. It derives from cattle branding—the sear and sizzle of ownership. Poetry can't be owned; not even its creators own it! To me that's the freedom of art: a freedom from market-mindedness and all the branding it involves. Although, I suppose, some artists do devolve into a brand (Warhol? Ashbery?), while others (Picasso, Yeats) keep refusing the brand by reinventing themselves. It's a talent cattle only wish they had!
From M.W.:
If I am a box of soap on a shelf, sure I want everyone to see me – to stand out – to be the one people go to in spite of the fact that Cheer is right next to me. . .But I’m not a box of soap. And yes there are plenty of other poets around. I’m not trying to put them down. I don’t want to bury the competition. I don’t need to do that to be a poet or any artist. In fact, I think of the arts as sort of the “anti-brand” because we really need others for the arts to flourish. 
From P.D:
You're exactly right about word choice. People who know how to manipulate consumers use the word "brand" to describe a saleable product; they know what it implies. Using it implies ownership and commodity, a selling point.

Word choice is important and, almost always, deliberate.

In the army, the word Soldier is slowly being supplanted with Warrior, a deliberate word choice used to announce the birth of a warrior class in the United States, really previously unknown in this country.

Whatever anyone says, the word "brand" implies something to be bought, sold, traded, created to make a profit.
From K.K.:
This is what strikes me wrong about branding the artist: humans are not solely consumers. The dominant culture tell us that we can purchase our individuality through the mass market. But the problem with the mass market is the same as ever: it can only deal in large swaths, the broad strokes of humanity. Consumers are one dimensional-- all that matters about them is that they buy your stuff. Branding is about manipulating both your product and the consumer for profit.

Art, however, is the antidote to the enormous pressure to see people as simply market forces interacting. Art deals in particulars-- the exceptions, the quirks, the surprises that make us human. Art-- both its making and its receiving--is about what makes people valuable in themselves: what we can make and how we can be moved in ways that connect us, strange and individual though we are, to ourselves and the world around us. 
From C.K.
We were specifically talking about branding ourselves. I don't like the term either, but if you are going to sell any books beyond your sphere (family, friends, colleagues), you are going to have to "get your name out there." That's what branding means to me.
From L:

I do not mind branding that much. I like it. I think it can be a very creative process and much fun. The thing is that indeed the word does not really work for artists. It was created to work for companies and products, and it suggests an illusion, a made-up identity attributed to a thing for commercial purposes. That is of course not valid for human beings and even less for artists, who are all very strong individualists, have very specific personal styles. The only thing is that they need to make this individual style known, recognized, associated with their name. Which is needed, especially in this world where the consumers of art are exposed to so much and have so much to choose from. You need to help your audience find you, that's all. That's how I see it.
From J.G.:

It is a fact that nowadays, having a blog and a Facebook id and a web site presence mean you have already created a Kelli Agodon "brand" whether you like it or not or use that word or not. There is an entity that people think about, maybe even a specific kind of writing that they think about, when they think of you. (Not friends and family, but those who only know about you.)

From C.

May I play devil’s advocate? As a person who has “branded” herself, I must disagree with your ideas about branding. I actually took a class on branding and I didn’t do it to become famous but rather to focus on the writing. Before the class, I had a now defunct blog titled, “A Little Known Fact,” in which I discussed everything under the sun including my mental health struggles. I managed, in a relatively short time, to build a poor reputation—one that no publisher anywhere would want to publish no matter how good I get at writing—and deleted the blog in disgust of blogging altogether. I had managed to learn to hate what I had thoroughly enjoyed doing in a matter of months. Now, after being “branded,” I once again enjoy blogging, when I have the time, and focus purely on the writing. In my case, I blog only about haibun, but I write, in my private life, whatever hits my fancy. So the branding is not necessarily for fame or for limiting myself but for connecting with others in my chosen favorite genre of haibun. 

From M.S.:

I feel the same way: if you're talkin platforms, it's either a bathing suit thing, or a shoe.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
So as of tonight, I still take issue with the word, but I'm understanding a little more what others consider branding.  
I looked up the word "brand" and was surprised to remember its competing definitions.  It is both a trademark or something distinguished by a characteristic and also a stigma or "any mark of disgrace."  
So in one sense it is both the best and worst of something. 
I think my visual side that grew up spending each summer at a friend's farm and autumn rodeo still goes back to the sizzle of what a brand really is, a mark of ownership, a painful burn in the side that you're somebody's meat.  And maybe this is why I so dislike this word.  
And what's odd, reading the comments that are for branding, I can completely see their points and I did not read any posts where I questioned someone's integrity.  But I do feel this language was created for us and not by us. And as someone who deals with words, this is important to me.    
I think if I were giving someone advice on how to get a book published, it would not include the line, "First, determine your brand, then create your platform."  I would say, "First write about what you are passionate about.  And read a lot. Write more and revise."  So maybe I am not the right person to ask, "How do I publish a book?" because my answer would be to write first.  And maybe branding helps you find your audience first and then you write to them.  ?  Am I understanding that?
I guess it's just a different way of doing things.  I make the shoe then hope to find a foot that fits it.  Some people find the foot and make the shoe for it.  In that respect, the other way seems a little more efficient.  But I guess it comes down to this, if no one else ever wears the shoe I made, it's okay, because I love that shoe.  I would have made the shoe whether there was a foot or not, because well, I'm a shoemaker, I mean writer first.  
Of course, taking about writing as shoes makes me hope that when I go to sleep tonight some little elves will enter my office and finish off all those unfinished poems...  Actually, I don't, as that's the stuff I like to do.
I'm a poet, I do things like that.
Below is a list of definitions on the word "brand" - enjoy.  Maybe they will inspire a poem or story.

kind, grade, or make, as indicated by a stamp, trademark,or the like: the best brand of coffee.
a mark made by burning or otherwise, to indicate kind, grade, make, ownership, etc.
a mark formerly put upon criminals with a hot iron.
any mark of disgrace; stigma.
a kind or variety of something distinguished by somedistinctive characteristic: The movie was filled with slapstick—a brand of humor he did not find funny.
a burning or partly burned piece of wood.
Archaic a sword.
–verb (used with object)
to label or mark with or as if with a brand.
to mark with disgrace or infamy; stigmatize.
to impress indelibly: The plane crash was branded on hermind.
to give a brand name to: branded merchandise.
to promote as a brand name.
bef. 950;  ME, OE: burning, a burning piece of wood, torch, sword;c. D brand,  G Brand,  ON brandr;  akin to burn1


1 comment:

  1. hate that I missed out on all the other comments about branding. So far behind on my blog readings and such!

    i did a post recently thinking about labels which is really probably the same topic. i have such a habit of calling myself a narrative poet but is that really what I am? just because i write and am interested in story is that all i am? is that bad? so many people brand narrative in a negative now it seems so i am becoming leery of that label..

    and why do i now want m & m's and mcdonalds...hmm..i could solve that with a mcflurry :)


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