Throughout high school I loved wearing skater clothes. I always struggled hard to make sure I had an O’neil hoodie or Quicksilver pants or Etnies Shoes. I would search the clothing stores for tags; the style didn’t matter cause I figured it was in if it had the tag that I knew I liked. Why I liked it is beyond me, I just knew I liked it. For some reason the colour choices and lengths and cuts just fit my body properly and I felt good when I put it on. Then one day someone said out loud around me that they don’t where brands because it made no sense to pay a company to advertise for them. It made sense to me and ever since I’ve come to dissociate myself with brands.
Brands do funny things to people. Brands are built to attach themselves to people’s emotions and their values. Marketers are trained to make brands appealing and lucrative to us so we feel as if we need the brand to complete ourselves. How genius is that? Make a product and then somehow convince people that they aren’t people without it. Have you ever insulted a brand that someone adores, or a brand that gives someone value? They will defend the lifeless brand as if it is them personally you are insulting. Try it sometime. Make fun of Hillsongs to someone who loves them. Make a comment about Nike using sweatshops to a Nike shoe lover. Tell someone they don’t need their $1000 Prada purse. Brands have become so attached to people that people can’t see themselves apart from them. Their value is entangled up in these brands.
In a way patriotism is a branding of sorts. Tell someone that their value is in being an American, or a Canadian enough and eventually they will believe it. You end up having a country full of empty people fighting for an empty brand.
And then here enters the church, Jesus and Christianity. We live in a brand saturated world and so our first instinct is to offer yet another brand to everyone hoping that this brand will outlast all the others; after all we got Jesus and that’s really what everyone needs. People end up getting value from their brand and then up defending their brand. The brand comes in many shapes and sizes. Sometimes it’s the cool emergent church, or the high church, or the charismatic church. Sometimes it’s just our bible or our Christian music. Then sometimes we brand morality. We have to live a certain way, a certain style to be accepted. Not swearing is as cool as expensive purses.
Branding is a thick layer covering who we really are. We can barely picture a world separate from our brands. We can barely picture or value ourselves separate from them. It smothers everything. Yet we need to fight through this and receive our value from who we are, and not what we do or have. Brands only have the power that we give them. We don’t have to be bound by them and our lives dictated by them. We are not cooler, more successful or have more value because of the church we go to, car we drive, clothes we wear, house we live in, country we live in, electronics we have yet over and over again we convince ourselves we are.
The only image I want to carry is God’s. I’m created in his image. Let us continue to strip down all these other images that wish us to represent them. Let us keep in mind that they are empty, draining and only have the value we give them. Our value comes from being created in his image and no one else’s.
11 thoughts on “Brands that Give us Value”
“The only image I want to carry is God’s.”
I have to confess that I’m not there yet. In the back of my mind I know how I like to come across; serious, intense, making frequent use of dry humour. Although I don’t care about certian brand names, (I didn’t recogize and of the “skater” brands you mentioned) I unconsciously try to buy clothes which lend themselves to the image I try to put across.
A few months ago a friend of mine, who’s not a Christian, told me that I can come across as harsh and that when we first met she thought I didn’t like her when all I was doing is acting like I normally do. So apparently some people don’t like the Tom Skerritt brand, at least initially.
Should I rebrand myself?
I think you bring up a point that i was straying away from Tom.
Brands aren’t necessarily NIKE or something with a logo, but an identity that we love and we think gives us value.
So in answer to your question, I think that anything that doesn’t look like God’s image in our lives, it’s something that we should be disciplining ourselves to change.
I agree that we need to prune that which isn’t godly in our lives but the thing is that it’s awefully hard to know what is godly and what isn’t. When I read, for example, about Jesus I see a person who was serious, realistic and called a spade a spade. It may be the way I was raised with no BS, but these things resonate with me very much. However others, actually most people, don’t see these things as very Christ-like or helpful.
My point is this…not every part of our character can be neatly put into the “godly” or “ungodly” catagories; there are parts of our personality that just “are” so to speak. I don’t think that the fact that I’m serious, dry, etc, etc, nessessarily comes from God. What about these? In this age people tend to be a lot more laid back than I am. Should I cut this away because it’s considered distasteful be many of my peers??
Tom, I think you are on to an entire new subject. There is a fine line between personality and morality.
We try to be loving to all people, so if someone is continually offended that I so forward with my comments, maybe I can try to hold my tongue when I am around them. Personalities are shaped around relationships though, i don’t think personality is a morality issue at all, but how my loved ones feel when I am in the room in repeated circumstances might be.
That make sense?
You’re right…as I developed my thought as I was typing it was a whole new topic. Apologies.
But to interact with what you said more specifically; I’ve never understood why people want to assoicate themselves with a certian brand of clothing, it seems to me that there are more interesting things to indentify yourself with. Moreover, do link your own identity with a corporate logo plays right into the hands of companies.
That being said I do have a certian “brand”…I like to dress like a grad student. If I were to dress like you I’d feel wierd.
That isn’t to say that I care how you, or anyone dresses save myself.
You are totally right on here:
We live in a brand saturated world and so our first instinct is to offer yet another brand to everyone hoping that this brand will outlast all the others
Church, which often runs on a business model, constantly carries on the same sort of conversation as marketers do: Branding.
Your so right on
If branding was all about what clothes / shoes we were wearing in high school, I think today it’s all about the electronics. People [including myself with my macbook] are so proud to show off their iPods, laptops and blackberries.
In the same way that brands only have as much power as we buy into them, so too does the Kingdom hold weight in relation to our ability to give ourselves over to it. The problem is that the Church itself is sold on this idea, making it even harder to break free from.
Great post, Nathan. Thanks for sharing this.
As far as tangible branding is concerned…clothes, electronics, whatever, I don’t think it has anything to do with the item but the image they compose. Let’s get away from negative images for a moment…organics, all-natural, random fairtrade coffee brands…these are all positive, all things I intentionally purchase. Do I do it to be socially responsible? Yes but they also create an image and can be a point of pride…which maybe that’s what branding is all about anyway: Pride. In that sense I think it can be positive or negative pride.
So we create a hierarchy of images, in my neo-hippy mentality I want to create a ‘non-branded’ image but do I really escape it? Either way I end up thinking I’m better for adhering to my no-brand policies or responsible-brand policies than the dude who has to have the more expensive and that brings us back to pride.
So then I think Nathan, your point comes down to rooting your image in God.
And maybe I’ve veered somewhat from branding to image but I think they’re the same.
Good post Nate, I haven’t been here in a while.
Elea, I was just reading a comment you left on one of my posts ages ago and wondering how the heck you’ve been.
Thanks for the comment.
yes, we live in the world where to communicate, one must define the self at the least. and the layers can become very thick the more we compare ourselfs with others and find our worth in the world. i really do think that the Holy Spirit works in us to break down these layers to become who we really are in God.