I have been so busy with papers that I haven’t had enough creative juices left to write a blog post. But the documentary on graffiti artists reminded me of something I’ve been wanting to discuss for awhile: branding. Graffiti artists will “tag” their artwork (or just the walls of public restrooms). It may not be known to all who view it, but it is a pictographic signature. As graffiti artists work in a visual medium, this is not surprising. However, a similar process may be seen in social media, as people construct multimedia “signatures” that import and transmit their personality (or what they desire their personality to be; we are what we do).
The modern concept of brands dates back to the 19th century, when manufacturers imprinted their goods before shipping them miles away. Around the turn of the 20th century, companies began to develop advertising based on their trademark. The rise of radio and broadcast television was a natural boon to advertisers, who drafted audiovisual texts to accompany their slogans.
Brand identity describes the psychological associations of a product that purportedly mirror the interests and emotions of the target audience. While the effectiveness of this technique has been demonstrated over and over again in market research studies, few have considered how consumers reappropriate brand identities to describe themselves. Except of course, certain advertisers who observed this brand fandom (e.g. “I’m a Mac”).
In a previous iteration of Facebook, users could install modules on their page that incorporated logos, religious symbols, celebrity images, witty sayings, TV/film quotes and musical lyrics, and other such cultural memes. This capacity is gone on Facebook, but has been renewed with force by Pinterest. Similar to the “biographical collage” projects we had in grade school, but heavily incorporating advertising logos, images from mass media, and TV/film stills, these collages show that users do not mere fall for brand identity, but construct a branded identity themselves.
What symbols do you surround yourself with? Are you a Coke or a Pepsi? A donkey or an elephant? A Trekkie or a Lucas nerd? A Mac or a PC? McD’s or BK? …the possibilities are endless.