Friday, August 12, 2005

Fiat lux.

I think almost everybody is a hypocrite. At least they are when it comes to brands. The official consensus is that we don't like them and we think they're instruments of corporate manipulation. They are putatively so evil and such effective weapons of control that it's not hard to imagine the United States Army might have its own branding corps, a top secret special forces unit that parachutes into innocent third world villages and Nikes them. You'd think we became stupid in the presence of a logo. Stupid, or weak, as if brands were some kind of moral kryptonite. We would sooner be busted socially for being an Ashlee Simpson fan than somebody who cared about what kind of toothpaste they used.

Well, sorry Naomi. Everybody might be nodding solemnly, but they're still buying. (Nice logo, by the way). They may be just this side of porn as a guilty pleasure, but brands are fun. They're pop culture, at least as much as Ashlee Simpson is (though it should be noted that the number of Nike t-shirts one sees on the street exceeds the number of Ashlee Simpson t-shirts by an estimable margin). I can prove they're pop culture, too, with a simple test of my own devising:

1. Is it fundamentally irrelevant?

2. Can you see it on television?

3. Can you buy its t-shirt?

4. Is someone getting rich from it?

5. Have the really cool people already moved on to something else?

Answer yes to all five questions, and you've got a bona fide piece of pop culture right there. The Rolling Stones? Five out of five. The Mini Cooper? Five out of five. Try it on your own favourite brands, and you'll see. Your beer brand has a lot more in common with the whole Jennifer and Brad thing or the inexplicable staying power of hip-hugger jeans than it does with anything 'corporate'.

It seems perfectly reasonable to me, then, to treat them the same way. Laugh at them, admire them, deconstruct them, gossip about them and generally amuse ourselves at their expense. A great brand is like a hip hop star. You might not always like the music, but it's always fun when one shoots up a night club, and they love the attention.

So that's my plan.

No comments: