Doesn’t it feel like everyone is selling something? And if they aren’t selling their own stuff, people are being paid to sit around and think of ways to get us to buy someone else’s stuff?
Its common knowledge that being portrayed in a certain way helps the sale, so marketers make up brand stories and, if they have the budgets, have photo shoots created, videos produced, and pay for celebrity endorsements. The background conversation is a comparative one: “We want to be perceived like Apple.” or “Can you makes us like Beats by Dre?” or “We want to have that Silicon Valley vibe.” What does that really even mean? And does it ever work? Here’s what I think, let’s stop pretending and just start being.
Branding died in the 90’s.
I believe branding died when the Internet was born. Back in, say, the 90’s, people would plan a promotion for months, sometimes years ahead of time and respond to market conditions in a slow, methodical manner. This gave companies an opportunity to create a persona and consumers had fewer opportunities to dismantle that persona. In 2000’s this began to fall apart, in part because the economic crash of 2008 set consumers to be more skeptical. People craved raw honesty, no pretense and even less bullshit.
As people lost their homes and Gen Y kids lost their college money, people were fed up with bullshit marketing and consumerism-driven lies about what a good life is and whether it was even attainable in the first place. And, with the Internet and boom of social media, they could do their research and share their grievances.
Here we are in 2015 and branding, at least long-game branding, seems dead. All you can do is be what you are, now. In some ways, it’s a shame. Those methodical campaigns were sometimes things of beauty and brilliance. In so many other ways, good riddance to the BS.
The kickflip test.
When I was in high school I was skateboarder. We would skateboard all across the west coast. People would always talk big game about how they skated and would act like they were good. Skateboarding was cool and it was cool to skateboard. Don’t know what a kick flip is? Check it out:
My friends and I would always ask “Can you do a kickflip?” It was a test to see if they had moved past the ollie and actually invested time into skating. Many times these kids had nice skateboards, the right clothes, the right words and the swagger – but when you put them on the board they couldn’t even do a kickflip. They were branded as “skateboarder” but, they weren’t really investing into BEING one. You can say your anything. But you can only be what you are. People of today must lead now, move towards the unknown, in order to be relevant tomorrow. Take a look at your market and make sure you can pass whatever your kick flip test is.
The Apple of shoes or the Zappos of couches not likely
Stop trying to be the Apple of shoes or the Zappo of couches and to be the you of you. Today, we have the unique opportunity to actually stop branding and start being. Being is about actively taking actions towards something that each of us individually cares about. Being is what we are all doing every moment any way. When we consciously make choices towards a goal, higher purpose, cause or just something that delights our soul we are creating a history. A history of authentic choice may not be valuable in the moment but over time, it can grow into history of valued accomplishments. Its these accomplishments that give us our identity, its what people can count on us for. We should start asking ourselves what are we being, instead how can we brand this.
Action Bronson: being yourself pays
People are attracted to honest and genuine things. Recently I’ve been into on a rapper named Action Bronson. He’s sloppy looking but can cut down the mic like a chainsaw cuts timber. This guy is being it, living it, going all in like it doesn’t matter and living like he may not make it one more day. Check him out on his TV show, “Fuck thats Delicious. ” His prose grabs you by the ears and jumps into your mind. This guy is doing it, he’s cutting through it and being something. He started in 2008 and I just heard of him in 2015. Who Action Bronson is being has produced a history, he took what he was and kept at it, who he was being gave him the ability to be successful in a highly competitive market. The google chart shows when people actually started noticing him online, and you can his growth just jumped dramatically. If you want to get to know Action a little better here is a recent video “Easy Rider.”