Social media encourages, and even requires, personal branding. According to a leading self-help book on brand and image, your personal brand is “what people say about you when you are out of the room.” So I guess my brand is, “When is he going to get back with those coffees!”
Mark Globé identifies the prominence of the “portfolio career” in times of recession, ie a blurring between regular employment and freelance, and the mediatization of the professional individual. More than ever, you need to brand yourself.
The idea of branding derives from consumer culture. Its legacy is in marks, signatures, cartouches, seals and heraldry, but brand is a modern, post industrial phenomenon, relying on mass production, commerce, marketing, corporate management strategies and mass media. The market savvy soap manufacturer stamps the company name on bars of soap before they come off the production line.
Perhaps thoughtful professionals should resist branding as a metaphor or signifier of identity; or perhaps branding can be reclaimed. Activists for the personal and local wish to democratise brand, to rescue it from the apparatuses of mass consumption and the promotion of elite products. Branding can belong to ordinary social situations and places — everyday concerns about identity and human encounter
The social function of branding is apparent when we think of how people identify with brands, put their trust in them, and become loyal to their favourite brands. People deploy signs, symbols, tags and tag lines as shortcuts to the assessment of the value of a thing.
Groups of people identify with particular spaces and congregate there. Branded places can be meaningful, symbolic, alluring and support people’s desire to be in a place. Branded places provide a performance setting, set the mood, sometimes independently of the tangible, material, entertainment or informational resources that the place provides.
So we choose to work or meet in the locally or globally branded bar, park, cafe, library, fun palace, or airport lounge, because of what the brand offers, as part of the mood of the place. Brand features in meetings between friends and intimates, and small group meetings between clients and service providers, mentors and pupils, buyers and sellers, protagonists and mediators. In so far as a brand is a mark, it is a trade mark, with currency in the whole apparatus of social negotiation.
Brands feature in our rich and variegated experience of the urban environment and the “semiosphere.” Brand doesn’t only belong to Apple, Amazon, Prada and Waitrose. Nor do brands belong only to the companies that create them. People own brands through “culture jamming,” appropriation, and other strategies of subversion. Citizens have the power to appropriate brand for everyday use, by controlling, claiming and re-claiming brand.
Our project on branded meeting places assumed this collective, democratic and enabling aspect of brands, and investigated digital technologies for activating the branded aspects of a place. Branding has a strong social aspect, aided and abetted by the possibilities of digital social networks.
It’s well known that brands form into partnerships, clusters and ecologies: Nike and O2, Cafe Nero and Blackwell’s, Qantas and Emirates. Has the BBC’s brand been sullied by the recent exposure of the Jimmy Savile “brand”? The recent exposés signal the sudden transformation of a personal brand from that of enabler to seedy pariah, and how one brand can infect another. Brands and their allegiances entail risks as well as offering security. Now that’s something else to frighten children with this Eve of All Hallows.
- Coyne, Richard, Mark Wright, James Stewart, and Henrik Ekeus. 2009. Virtual flagships and sociable media. In A. Kent, and R. Brown (eds.), Flagship Marketing: Concepts and Places: 46-62. London: Routledge.
- Mitchell, William J. 2003. Me++: The Cyborg Self and the Networked City. Cambridge MA: MIT Press
- Purkiss, John , and David Royston-Lee. 2009. Brand You: Turn Your Unique Talents into a Winning Formula. London: Artesian
- Globé, Mark. 2002. Citizen Brand: 10 Commandments for Transforming Brands in a Consumer Democracy. New York: Allworth
- Also see article on architecture as brand by Lachlan Anderson-Frank http://www.architectureis.org/2012/10/23/a-brand/