All of my life, I suppose I’ve had this love/hate relationship with branding. Let me explain. Growing up, my family was fairly poor. When I was A kid, I really had no concept of name-brand clothing or the importance of having the “it” toy. I loved Barbie, but “Barbie” was more or less a generic term for any small fashion doll that I could dress up and play with. I made most of my own doll clothes and accessories myself and I liked it better that way because I could make them any way I wanted. Using cardboard, construction paper, and my mom’s old fabric scraps, I wasn’t just restricted to a color palette of electric pink and purple. I had the freedom to truly transform Barbie into whomever I wanted her to be. Me, being nerdy from the start, usually preferred that my Barbies were wizards or had super powers. Popular 80’s Barbie fashion never quite allowed for that.
I guess I didn’t start to catch on to the whole significance of branding until I hit junior high school. I went to Catholic school for my entire elementary career. I always wore a uniform to school and no one was the wiser about my “normal” clothes. The summer before 7th grade my family moved and I was transferred to public school. To say that it was a major culture shock for me may be an understatement. Suddenly I was surrounded by all of these kids wearing American Eagle and Abercrombie. They had crazy expensive shoes for PE class and I had my Walmart specials. Most of my wardrobe was a combination of hand-me-downs, Goodwill, and garage sale clothing. For the first time in my life, these brands, or my lack of them made me different. They divided my fellow students and I into social classes and I was on the low end of the totem pole.
Fast forward to high school. I had developed into a cynic with a terribly anti-conformist attitude. Having spent more time in my own head than anywhere else, I saw all of the superficiality of high school culture and wanted no part of it. Why get excited about the dances? We knew that it would be nothing but all of us standing around awkwardly in the gym while the cheesy DJ pumped out terrible music. Who gives a damn about the prom queen? Anyway, I got this idea in my head that the kids running around with brand names emblazoned on their chests and posteriors made them look like cattle. I mean, that’s where branding came from, right? The cows got a branded with a red hot poker to the rear. And people are paying top dollar for nothing but a T-shirt with a logo on it. Isn’t that like paying to advertise for that brand? I decided that I would never wear any article of clothing with the brand name on the outside unless they were paying me. I’ve kept this philosophy for several years since, but recently I feel that I’ve gone to the dark side.
I was an art major for a while in college. I also studied theatre and creative writing. I enjoy all of these things, but I still have no idea how to turn them into a career. I dropped out of school for a while. I had some health issues. I worked a bunch of retail and clerical jobs to get by. I needed to make art again so I randomly applied to The Creative Center, a local design college.
Ladies, gentlemen, my former rebel self, I am a bit ashamed to admit that I’ve fallen in love with identity marketing and *gulp* BRANDING. I know what you’re thinking: Brainwashed. They must have brainwashed her! I still don’t run around in T-shirts with logos (Unless they are a band logo or just really well designed). I just love the challenge of creating a company’s identity. I always try to think of the company as a person. What would they look like? How would they dress? What music would they listen to? I try to design a personality for the company because that’s what branding is really all about, right? Also, I wonder if would I proudly wear that logo on my ass. When people wear those logos, they are trying to associate themselves with that personality. Maybe that’s not so bad.
I have come to terms with all of the brands in my life and even succumbed to a few of them. It really can’t be helped. People latch onto a brand for several reasons: Because of the quality, the style, the statement it makes, the way it makes them feel, the prestige associated with it. I have this theory that one could paint a pretty good portrait of a person’s personality just based on the brands they spend their money on. Let’s test this:
I enjoy the occasional Captain and Coke or a glass of Apothic Red. I frequently shop at Target. Snickers bars are delicious. I am addicted to Benefit and Urban Decay Cosmetics. I like to hang out at Barnes and Noble. I spend too much money on Hell Bunny retro clothing.
Well, what do you think?