Self-Branding by Buying

“My Brand” exhibitionLast week, I touched on the idea of individual, global microbrands. Thinking about what defines an individual microbrand, I’ve wondered how the things we buy contribute to our microbrands. For example, what does my use of a Sony Ericcson cell phone say about me? Personally, I don’t think it says much of anything. However, what if I was flashing a Giorgio Armani Samsung?

The things we choose to buy and use invariably become a part of individual identities. Just try separating a Crackberry user from his device. Fair warning: there may be blood involved. As we go along, we add these smaller pieces to our identities, believing they contribute to the bigger picture of who we believe ourselves to be.

Somehow the Macbook Air says something important about you that no other laptop can convey. Somehow that Vuitton handbag makes a previously boring outfit a smashing success. Somehow, we end up believing that by adopting another brand as our own, we’re creating our own microbrand.

There’s nothing inherently evil about buying things you like. However, I do believe you’re on a slippery slope if you believe something external defines your individual microbrand. For me, the idea of a personal microbrand revolves around the notion that it comes from that uniquely you center of being. It isn’t dependent on buying a particular laptop or wearing designer kicks.

John Dryden in The Hind and the Panther included the very relevant line, “All, as they say, that glitters is not gold.” (link) The same principle applies in this situation, too. Using other brands to create your own does nothing more than build a shell. Under pressure, the shell will crack, undermining your efforts to establish your microbrand. If it doesn’t come from inside, how are you different from anyone else?

If she has the money, any individual can buy a Macbook Air. Does it really make sense to base one’s identity on a value that anyone else can purchase? When you decide to figure out what your individual, global microbrand is, keep in mind that it shouldn’t be a mirror image of the guy standing next to you.


(Image courtesy of dadawan. Some rights reserved.)


3 Responses to “Self-Branding by Buying”

  1. February 26, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    read popco by scarlet thomas. what brands are chosen definitely define..

    if the user voluntarily separates from their crackberry (as i did, mostly successfully)… there won’t be much blood … i saw it as a tool not as a definition, probably bc they are so ubiquitous here and my husband had one for years it just wasn’t a big deal.. the model i had/have is quite outdated and many didn’t understand why i didn’t upgrade it (bc i didn’t really need any of the new features).

    i’m currently lusting after a certain brand of clogs, but for a reason that i think goes beyond the brand. i’ve not quite found clogs in that style in my size. i like the design, and if i could reasonably find a second brand with the same or a close similar feature set, i’d probably try for those instead. but that’s it, i don’t think that buy wearing clogs, carrying a certain messenger (or knitting) bag will define me in a “status” way.

    hmmm… none of this is quite coming out how i’d like and i don’t think i’ve really contributed.. i do want to say thank you for making me think of why i want to purchase certain things and just to think about it. if any of this makes sense…

    it’s interesting drafting this as i’m sitting across from a buddhist nun…

  2. 3 Britt
    February 26, 2008 at 5:43 pm

    @evan: I’m glad you liked it.

    @penny: I find is fascinating that you drafted said comment will sitting across from a Buddhist nun. 🙂

    I need to read popco (it’s on the list). One of the things I was trying to communicate was that we sometimes let outside forces play an overly large role in individual definition. I also think you don’t give yourself enough credit for being so self-aware. For you, utility plays a huge role in your selections. For others, the perception they’re held in plays a bigger role.

    I’ve seen firsthand “pretend” Crackberry usage in an attempt to imply that they’re busy/important/special etc. I’ve noticed less of this behavior on other less, distinguishable PDAs. When we start taking our value from the things we own and the brands we love, we’re at risk of losing sight of the very individual-ness that makes us us.

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