Friday, September 05, 2008
Ich bin ein commodity.
Well, they tell me that our book – the one I’m shamelessly promoting just to the right of this column – has shipped to the printer. No more changes or revisions or additions or whatever other urges might awaken my co-author or me from a sound sleep with a night terror-inducing realization about the permanence of ink on paper. The missiles have left the silos.
And it’s a real book, too. This wasn’t some bootstrap vanity project we financed with our retirement money, or from the tills of our respective employers, or with the generosity of some charitable foundation for wayward bankers and branding consultants with literary pretensions. “The Orange Code” was bid upon by big, fancy publishers who publish famous books by famous people and make money at it. It is a product, already for sale at places like Amazon.com and Wal-Mart and Target, right there alongside the kitty litter, shower massages and bestselling novels. Me, a guy who has made a career out of helping companies market things is now, himself, being marketed.
Except that I – tragically - am not famous. And this, in a supreme twist of irony worthy of an Aesop fable, makes me a product without a brand.
So let me just say this about that: If you ever find yourself questioning the real value of a brand in the noble cause of marketing, just walk a mile in these generic shoes. In the publishing world, if your name isn’t Dan Brown or J. K. Rowling, the product (that would be you and your tome) is doomed to assert, defend and explain itself all the way from the publisher’s swishy lobby to the airport bookstore where it will vie with “Who Moved My Cheese?” to redeem some poor bastard’s unplanned layover in Pittsburg. For a writer, life without a brand is a Sisyphean struggle for credibility that ends only when Oprah says it does.
Harsh. And it’s no different for real products, either. Take that last sentence and replace “writer” with, oh, say, “boxer shorts” and “Oprah” with “Wal-Mart”, and you have every brand manager’s worst nightmare.
Anyway, with editing and the summer now fading memories, it’s good to be back in the groove. And my evangelical fire is lit anew. For I have been brandless. And it’s even worse than I thought.