Meritocracy and its Discontents   /   Summer 2016   /    Signifiers


Jay Tolson

Universal Composition, 1937, Joaquín Torres-García (1874–1949); photograph: Philippe Migeat; Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France; © CNAC/MNAM/Dist. RMN-Grand Palais/Art Resource, NY; © copyright Alejandra, Aurelio, and Claudio Torres 2017.

Branding has not merely endured, to paraphrase Faulkner, it has prevailed.

Back at the dawn of this century, I wrote a fairly cheeky piece about the growing craze for brands and branding. My irreverence rested on the reasonable but ultimately mistaken confidence that this marketing fad would one day pass, following in the footsteps of that old PR staple, image. In concluding, I mentioned a new book by marketing gurus David Andrusia and Rick Haskins, thinking that the title alone—Brand Yourself: How to Create an Identity for a Brilliant Career—would show just how risibly overblown all this branding chatter was.

No need to say who had the last laugh, and not just because that book’s success inspired a lengthening string of knockoffs with such unabashedly derivative titles as Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself, Branding Yourself Online, Personal Branding and Marketing Yourself, and How to Brand Yourself. Today, not surprisingly, there’s a thriving sub-industry of companies dedicated to helping you fashion a brand-optimal identity.

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