Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

Commentary

December 7, 2013

The tyranny of branding

Has anyone noticed that your brand has replaced your self?

First impressions have always been important, but became critical to survival when Americans left the farm for the city and needed to get a job from someone they were not related to or friends with.

Dale Carnegie cashed in on this demographic shift with his bestselling 1936 book How to Win Friends and Influence People.

The advent of social media, however, seems to have unleashed an obsessive inner need to mark our territory like dogs who stop every five feet to spread their scent, and not just on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

I am no scientist, but I’ve noticed you no longer have to Google people to find out who they are. Just look at the back of their car. It will often tell you not just their political affiliation, a long-standing tradition, but where and how much they spend on vacation, their yearly tuition bills, and their social class.

It doesn’t matter what socioeconomic background they come from.

The stickers may be different — you don’t see too many stick figure families or “My German Shepherd is smarter than your honor student” stickers on the backs of Land Rovers, for example, but you will see lots of MV (Martha’s Vineyard) or OBX (Outer Banks) ovals affixed next to their private school stickers.

Lately I’ve seen a lot of blue squares with two yellow lines — which indicates support for gay marriage and broadcasts an in-the-know hipness since most people could not likely guess what it means.

A few weeks ago The Wall Street Journal ran a funny article by a man annoyed by all the runners with 26.2 and 13.1 bumper stickers he sees in his Midwestern town. As he asked, “What’s with this infatuation with running and the near-mandatory ritual of preening about it?”

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