I heard from several people on Facebook in response to my "branding" question. Here are a few different thoughts.
Shannon Landis Hansen wrote: "Brand" and "branding" makes me think of herds of cows and being brought to market to be slaughtered."
I tweeted much the same sentiment yesterday!
Spencer Eubank follows up on that theme: "Branding? Sounds painful. (Wry grin). If I understand the concept correctly it seems to me that branding is necessary for the 'celebrity' aspect of success, for the 'household name' degree of fame and fortune. And if I have one good talent, a signature style, then branding may be the way for me. If I write waltzes (Strauss) or marches (John Philip Sousa) or for the piano (Chopin) then 'branding' could be a measure of my success. The difficulty as I see it is that I might become confused with the brand, becoming typecast. I cannot see branding as a goal in itself, unless I am trying to create a boy band."
Etan Boritzer modifed his thoughts from a couple of days ago, and responded to Spencer's point, above: "Branding is just the means, don't get confused by it. Each one of us has to define the teleology, and the same time enjoy the ride, at the same time having a goal, at the same time not having a goal, etc."
And Spencer added this to his earlier comment: "Branding makes me think of Marlin Brando (for some reason) also the 1960's TV series Branded. Some have succumbed (literally) to the effects and side-effects of branding: Marilyn Monroe, George Reeves, Elvis, River, Michael, Heath, or so it seems to me. Some have successfully re-branded themselves: William Shattner has done it more than once, his latest incarnation a poor imitation of a buffoon hawking hotel rooms and cheap air fares. Galaxy Quest explored the idea of re-branding by making the fantasy into reality, an impossibility out here in the real world, but a fun movie nonetheless--the good guys won, go figure. At least Leonard Nimoy got to do some work in the latest Star Trek movie. Good for him. In a nutshell: Celebrity + Typecasting = branding. To be rich and famous and live in such a small box. Ouch! Feels like a hot iron in the shape of the initials F U on my bottom."
Winifred Johnson Brewer came at it from a comparable angle: "Beginning artists share the same goal -- to develop a 'style' -- their very own style. isn't this just another name for branding? couldn't you say hockney, warhol, rembrandt, magritte, picasso, any artist with a recognizable style, is branded? and the trap in all this for the artist is that no one wants to ever let him paint something else. and he's afraid to paint anything else because maybe no one will respond to the new work. happens in every medium. like woody allen fans wanting more annie hall. like ricky nelson @ madison square garden. like writers venturing out of their genre. of course it is easier to sell a known popular style than create a market for a new one. less risk."
And Lynn Kubasek chose to take on two subjects at once. With gusto. She writes: "I am not feeling very upbeat today so let's see what I spew out:
Having worked in a museum as a preparator in another lifetime (the museum formerly known as Newport harbor Art Museum), I thought being successful would have meant having a bevy of wealthy collectors and a traveling 20 year retrospective at major museums with a big 4-color coffee table catalogue produced about me. I still think that sounds pretty good but not in the same way. Flash forward past many poorly attended shows at non-profits and microvenues:
I don't know anymore. Although I have done a lot of things and physically succeeded at various things (heck, I swam the Catalina channel!) I do not feel as if I have been very "successful" as a creative person. I still make artwork and my Facebook friends appreciate the showing there but I don't know how to get it out there anymore except by giving stuff away (auctions, etc). To that end I have created a "brand"...
So I gave you some of my "Random Acts of Soap". I have been doing that since 2006...it is kind of an anti-commerce brand as I mostly don't sell it (I did sell some to the cool local surfer Jehova Witnesses that insisted on giving me money). I am going to register it as a trademark soon just for fun. It is pretty much a "not-for-sale" endeavor...just something I love and give away. My intent is that the gift be an expression of gratitude for the existence of others. I have given soap away to so many people I admire (THE Lynne Cox (Swimming to Antarctica) Anne Cleveland (oldest person to do a double English Channel swim) Nick Adams (youngest person to do a double English Channel swim) as well as people I loathe (my ex-husband).
What was the question again? What do I think of branding?...perhaps branding sets ARTISTS up to be remembered for the next few hundred years if done on a large scale (like The Getty)...but these things will crumble and pass eventually; Michelangelo, Rembrandt, the Medicis and Jesus (now those are BRANDS!). Slam the world with a epic global disasters, plagues, tsunamis...no one will care about any of that shit anymore and a new Jesus-ish figure will likely arise somewhere in the aftermath to soothe the angst of the searching masses.
So back to breathing. Right?"
Back to breathing, indeed! We end today on an apocalyptic note--and a nice piece of writing! All interesting stuff. I note that many more comments are coming in via Twitter. I'll post them later. Meantime, thanks for joining in the conversation!