[grid::brand] Who owns you?

This post is part of a grid blogging experiment.

Brand. If I’m not mistaken the word is derived from the practice of branding cattle, making a permanent mark on livestock to indicate the owner.

So, which brands own you? (FTR, I’m presently owned by Omm, Casio, Doc Martins, Jockey and Apple Computer)

In recent years, brand marketing has become a ubiquitous part of life. No longer is it enough to have a better product or service, or necessarily something that people what or need. It’s now all about the brand. It is the brand that takes a USD$2.50 and turns them into USD$100 merchandise. It builds desire in the heart of the consumer, which, in turn is the heart of capitalism.

Naomi Klein, in her seminal work No Logo, outlines the shift in marketing from product-based to brand-based, and how brand-disenfranchised culture has responded. She talks of the pitfalls of “brand-based” activism, and of “culture jammers” that use “sumo moves” on brands – turning the weight of a brand, in terms of it’s cultural gravity, on itself in an effort to change corporate practices. And of course the brands were quick to co-opt the energy of the jammers, throwing out new brands for the cynical generation.

I once had a conversation with a friend about what constitutes culture jamming. I was proposing that perhaps a “true jam” would be defined as “co-opting a brand for political or artistic purposes”. My friend was quick to contest this, saying that anything that fucks with public expectations of what a brand is constitutes a jam. It is an interesting perspective, and one I can’t wholly disagree with. Is Nike taking the piss out of their own brand any less valid form of culture jamming?

Feel my world close in around me
Every crevace filled with messages not my own
‘Till I no longer own the air I breathe
Sold off to someone else from under my nose

With our language now corrupted
With brand-lines and hard sells
I feel traces of them all over me
Every corner of my self
  Corporate Avatars (G. Young 02002)

How many times do we find ourselves repeating a brand in our speech and lives. From “D’oh!” to “Which bank?” to “Just do it!” to “Oops I did it again”. Our words are overtaken by brands, and our opportunities for expression are restricted as our words, phrases, and ideas are used, copyrighted and patented out of public into private space. As Anita Roddick notes: the label on a shirt often has more legal protection than the human worker that sewed it on.

It is a slippery slope. Cultures are being defined by brands, and more and more of the culture is becoming owned by the brands. Of course, the public plays a vital role in this whole pattern – we buy and support the brands. We give them their power. Our media channels support, and are in turn supported by, the brands. A symbiotic relationship.

Weekend gigs

Amy asks the obvious question: WTF was the Annandale thinking putting Bruce Springsteen on before Bluebottle Kiss?

The gig (on Saturday night) was absolutely brilliant though. Ben went off for the first time in ages and it really seemed to lift the entire band. The energy was soooooo huge. Everyone in the, slightly dissappointing, crowd was going off (myself included). Lots from the new album, Come Across, played with a passion and energy lacking from the past few shows I’ve seen. Drum kits were dissected, guitars were flying, and it was just brilliant. Rock at it’s absolute best! I’m sure last night was just as good.

Tonight we’re at the Hopetoun to see Districts Fall and Ollie (from Art of Fighting) for what will no doubt be another great gig. (Another big music week for me – yippee!)

Studio time

I’ve been in the studio all weekend with my band, Glance, mixing down our new EP. The whole weekend went really well. It’s the first time we’ve mixed anything in ProTools, and it was really interesting and inspiring for me to see how the process would work in the digital domain (although there was a a certain amount done using outboard gear like compressors and eqs, most of the levels and panning were handled in ProTools directly).

What amazed me was that David Trump, our mix engineer (who was absolutely awesome I might add), wasn’t using a surface, or the latest gear – the system we were using was a 3 year old G3 Mac with ProTools 5.1, without any kind of surface, just a keyboard and a mouse. It just goes to show that having the latest and greatest is never the most important part of the process.

We picked up a firewire drive for the occasion, and Ice Cube 120GB, and it worked a charm, and was ridiculously cheap – AUD$360. We still have 110GB left to work with! And what’s even better is it works perfectly with my PowerBook G4. As a result we are really excited about the prospect of recording demos using a studio for drum tracking and doing everything else over time outside the studio.

The only problem is I decided on Logic Audio when I set up my home system (because I wanted the extra MIDI capacity and audio instrument support) which uses a different file format to ProTools. So I’m going to have to work out a way to get ProTools software (which is only available with ProTools hardware) on my system. I’m thinking I might trade-in my wonderful M-Audio Duo for an M-Box, just so that I can work in ProTools on the audio side. (Of course it’d be awesome to get a Digi002 rackmount, but that’s kinda out of my price range).

Anyways, the results from the weekend have left us all really happy, and we’ll be posting some samples to the Glance site soon. We’ve also mocked up some artwork ideas (based on photos from the most excellent Amy which we’re really excited about too.

Visual Identity

In these two posts, Joi Ito talks about how we change our identity to suit different contexts.

I personally find that these changes can also affect how I present myself visually – my personal appearance. This is likely to sound vain, but regardless, it’s something I have been thinking about a lot lately (with changes at work etc.).

I hold a very strong belief that it doesn’t matter how someone looks. If you can’t look beyond the shell and find out what makes the person tick, who they really are and what they have to offer, you’re doing yourself, not to mention the other person, a tremendous disservice.

However, what has become apparent to me is that not everyone believes the same – or should I say often they do on the surface, but they still rely heavily on first impressions. As a good friend and business associate said to me once – “yeh, people don’t really know how to take you when they meet you, but then you talk and they get passed it”. I don’t know that they always do, but when he said that it really stuck in my head.

I have a tendency to read into what other people are thinking (i.e. I come to some conclusion about what I think they’re thinking). And recently I have recognised how much my appearance affects me when I am meeting someone for the first time. When I look “business like” I feel incredibly uncomfortable in social and music circles. When I look like a student/musician (the visual identity I most identify with personally) I feel completely out of place in a business setting.

What is most interesting to me is the realisation that this apprehension has a dramatic impact on my self-confidence in these situations (which often carries over outside of these situations I might add). In such situations I really notice and hold on to every little thing that I perceive I did wrong. Needless to say this isn’t a particularly healthy practice.

Despite the protestations I am likely to get from my friends who read this, I am a naturally shy person when it comes to meeting new people, although over the years I have found methods that help alleviate the natural fear I have around new people. But I realise that I have created a huge internal barrier for myself by not taking the time to really get to a point where my visual identity can co-exist comfortably (not necessarily perfectly) in these different situations. Finding a balance between business-like and professional, and the other extreme of dreds (now gone) and inch-sole Doc Martins. Pretty much following on from the theme of integration really – integrating my different identities visually.

Hopefully by paying a little more attention to these things I can remove that internal barrier that has plagued me for years, and perhaps in the process open myself up for some more positive and constructive experiences.