I am not a brand.

I’m not so down with the labels. I’m not affiliated with a political party (though this post is not about politics); I’m not a member of any subculture, not matter how much I enjoy their music; and I don’t consider this a mommy blog, or any other kind of blog besides the personal kind.

About two years ago I started to notice people talking about “building [their] brand.” This is a marketing term and it is my opinion that it should stay in marketing. Your brand is what you’re known for, and is what makes you recognizable. There are a lot of people for whom it makes sense — actors, for example. But I am sick and tired of hearing all about it in blogland.

Maybe this is asshole-y of me, but I think the mommy bloggers are to blame. Have a kid, feel disenfranchised, find a way to feel important again: building your brand! Or, I don’t know, anyone could have started it. Doesn’t matter. The fact is that people see blogs like Dooce making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and they want it to happen to them, so they follow all these guides that are out there (written, by the way, by people who are not making hundreds of thousands of dollars from their blogs) advising you to build your brand and find a focus and market yourself to advertisers.

I have advertising on this blog. You want to know what it pays? Less than a dollar a day. I am seriously considering taking it down tomorrow, only then I’d have to pay hosting and domain registrar fees out of pocket again, and I have very shallow pockets. It’s conceivable that if I found a singular focus for this blog and worked on building my brand, I’d make more money. But you know, fuck that. I’d like to make money doing something I’m good at, not pretending to be something I’m not. (I am not and have never been even the tiniest bit focused.)

I wrote this morning on Twitter:

I’m just going to say it: I don’t have a brand and I don’t want a brand. If this means I’ll never be an internet superstar, THANK GOD.

My friend Jonathan (who is an actor, and therefore one of the folks for whom I think branding makes some sense) replied:

um, hate to tell you, you are a brand. And a very good one.

Which is kind, but I disagree. I don’t want to market myself. I am a person, not a product. But I do think I am a pretty good one.

19 thoughts on “I am not a brand.

  1. oslowe

    October 30, 2008 at 5:14pm

    I think there should be an accompanying photo of you making air-quotes. Just cuz.

  2. Jason Burns

    October 30, 2008 at 5:17pm

    I agree with Nail. You are most definitely a brand. The question is, how do we define you?

    How ’bout this:

    “Mommy Madness at the Whims of a Child.”

  3. Annika

    October 30, 2008 at 5:28pm

    That’s no good, Burns. Going by the main page of my blog, there are only two posts about Sam. There are three about Halloween, two about Indiana Jones, one about marriage, one about knitting, and one meta (this one).

    Anyway, you’re an actor too. So you don’t get a vote.

  4. Jason Burns

    October 30, 2008 at 5:48pm

    Perhaps your Twitter brand is different from your blog brand. I do enjoy reading your helpless tweets as Twittered from the crazy grip of the child.

    Either way, my vote should still count. Because I said so.

  5. piglet

    October 30, 2008 at 5:55pm

    i love this post, and i agree with you on so many levels. i responded to your twitter asking “what is a brand”? even tho i’m an idiot b/c i know the answer (now) but didn’t get it at first.

    i’ve never had the desire to be pigeonholed into anything or defined by others in a pigeonholing mood. i don’t have any ads b/c wordpress.com doesn’t do that. i am in the process of building my own domain that i’ve been working on for a bit still not sure if i’ll put ads on it then.

    this is a hot topic for a lot of people, i think it’s human nature to label and categorize people. becoming a mother was the first time i really understood the underlying human nature factor for this.

    my motive for starting a blog was to exercise my writing muscles, and it remains that today. if it entertains others, that’s just a bonus.

    piglet’s last blog post..realist? paranoid? or just drunk crying girl?

  6. oslowe

    October 30, 2008 at 9:40pm

    okay, so there will be Annika sweatpants, but can the sweatshirt just be her making an air quotes sign while smirking? The hipsters will swoon for it…

  7. the slackmistress

    October 30, 2008 at 10:30pm

    I think about this a lot. In a way. I’m sort of happy that I ended up with a moniker, because while they’re the same person, I feel like when people expect
    the slackmistress” I have to be a lot more on. Most days I can just be Nina, unshowered and wearing sweatpants.

    the slackmistress’s last blog post..BetheBirthday

  8. nova

    October 31, 2008 at 3:17am

    I don’t see it, the brand that other people see when they think of you. Maybe I don’t get it, but if you as a blogger had a brand then your whole life would have to have a brand — like when you and Will and Sam eat dinner, or when you watch a movie, or go to the post office, or write a scene together, or knit a sock, or take a nap, etc. It would be the Noir Bettie brand of eating, watching, mailing, writing, knitting, and napping, etc., etc. And that’s a lifestyle thing. That’s global. That’s bigger than Nike.

    I think the idea of branding is going way over my head.

    Also, I don’t think of you as a Mommy Blogger. You blog, and you’re a mom, but you don’t just blog about being a mom or else (I admit) even though I think Sam is adorable I wouldn’t be reading you every day.

    So… that’s one more vote for you being a person, if you’re counting.

    nova’s last blog post..Tell Me

  9. B

    October 31, 2008 at 5:15am

    This is the most awesomest post ever. And I’d totally wear ANNIKA sweats, too. But that doesn’t mean that you are a brand. You’re a writer who has a way of describing the great and not-so-great stuff of life in a way that a lot of people can relate to it (which means you’re an awesome writer). I’d likely lose great interest in this site if you suddenly went all brand-y on us. It’s much more interesting to read what you have to say instead of reading what you think will generate the most page views and draw the most companies to give you free stuff and UGH don’t get me started on people and their awful reviews of free stuff that was sent to them…

    B’s last blog post..Sunday Afternoon Arrow Chasing

  10. Anne

    October 31, 2008 at 8:28am

    Sweatpants?!?! Sweatshirts?!?! I want the whole Annika outfit :)

    Coincidence that I’m replying on Halloween with no costume ideas? I think not!

    Happy, happy Halloweenie Day!

  11. Annika

    October 31, 2008 at 8:53am

    You guys, I am so disappointed. Zazzle doesn’t offer sweatpants. I can make a zip hoodie with noirbettie across the back bottom (basically the butt) but they’d cost $60 and that’s crazy.

  12. Jess

    October 31, 2008 at 10:30am

    And here I just thought you were my pal Annika who blogs about stuff that happens to her.

    (P.S. sign me up for sweatpants, just not $60 ones, though. Well…maybe if they’re hot pink velour ;P )

    Jess’s last blog post..Palin: we hate her cos we ain’t her

  13. Amadna

    October 31, 2008 at 10:33am

    I’ve been thinking about this all morning (between this and worrying about my TKD kids, I’ve gotten nothing done at work).

    I think branding has the connotation of funneling yourself into something that is easily put into a box by the public. There’s this common belief by marketing experts that something has to boxable in order to be sellable, and to some extent that’s true. If someone isn’t familiar with what is being sold, it’s easier to compare it to something that they’re already familiar with: “Oh, I like that, so I’ll probably like this”. I’m sure Amazon owes a lot of it’s success to the Recommended for You program based on that concept.

    The problem with boxing/branding an individual, and what you’re probably chafing at, is that individuals are notoriously difficult to box. Putting a label on someone disregards all the qualities that make you “you”. I wonder if “branding” is an attempt to shake off a label (which implies one-dimensionality) and try to coin a term that encompasses the whole.

    I think that so far, the people who have attempted to brand themselves have run into the problem that the public likes boxes and tends to disregard nuances. If I take the most obvious example, Paris Hilton, and apply the concept to her, my impression of her is that she is a lot smarter than her “branding” implies. However, since the public likes the box of dumb socialite, she plays it up and has a lot of success doing so, but she’s also sacrificed some of her individuality for money/fame and some might call that selling out.

    I also believe that branding is a conscious decision, that by putting yourself out there, you make a decision as to what you will or will not allow to be out there based on a certain criteria that is dictated by what you want the public to believe about you. This is a lot easier to do in media than in real life, although some people (those in the public eye) are adept at both. For the rest of us, “branding” is less about deciding what we want the public to believe about us and more about being ourselves, although there are elements of both for us bloggers.

    I have thoughts about taking money for a brand, especially when I think about my professional life and building a reputation in my community, but I’m hungry and they won’t coalesce and this comment is already longer than most of my blog posts. I’d be interested in hearing about what went into your decision to take paid advertising off your site.

    Amadna’s last blog post..I was Right – Now What?

  14. Swistle

    November 1, 2008 at 5:45am

    I think you’re so repulsed by the whole “market your brand” thing (as am I), that you’re throwing the blogging baby out with the branding bath water. Because the branders say you should have name recognition, you want to throw out name recognition; because the branders say you should profit, you want to PAY to blog—just so you’ll be totally different from them. But that’s like if I said I don’t like religion and don’t want to be associated with it, and so because religious people say not to kill and not to steal, I’m GOING TO kill and steal. I don’t say that, because I can see that not-killing and not-stealing are good ideas that religion appropriated but doesn’t actually own. And it’s the same with concepts like “having people recognize you” (which is something that’s also normal in non-blogging life) and “paying your expenses”: you can do those things without aligning yourself with the branders.

    Swistle’s last blog post..If You’re Frazzled and You Know it Clap Your Hands (Clap, Clap)

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