The other day, Justin Bieber visited the Anne Frank house. This should not be news in and of itself, but here's why it is.
The Anne Frank House posted the above message, quoting Justin's "Belieber" comment, on their Facebook Page.
I love this. Absolutely love it. Not because it proves something about Bieber. No, I love it because it proves the people calling themselves Personal Brands™ are extolling the virtues of being shallow and fake.
Once upon a time, before the marketing charlatans* got their buzzword hands on our vernacular, there were well-established words and phrases used to define decent behavior. Words like common sense, civility, etiquette and the like.
We espoused to live according to these words. Most of the time we fail, but the goal is there nonetheless.
Somehow, these words that had long signified enlightenment became inadequate in the social media age. So they were distilled into one festering soundbite ready mutation of corporate doggerel: Personal Brand.™ Yeah, that's so much stronger. Because we are brands now. Like Kotex. And Bubblicious are brands. We are Personal Brands™ and ain't it grand!
A lot of well-meaning people have picked this phrase up and ran with it, believing it had added power, much like wearing an amulet. "Yes it's a very obvious point that our behavior says a lot about us. But we have named it something else. We are now equating brand behavior with personal behavior and vice versa. We are selling ourselves the same way Kotex sells tampons. We must stay On brand. See?"
Yes, I do see. I also see we don't need a new word or a ™ symbol attached to said word to understand the concept. I really, really don't. Truth is, I can't stand it.
As far as I'm concerned, being called a Personal Brand™ is a Personal Insult™. I can only equate someone who refers to themselves as a Personal Brand™ as being perpetually stuck in life's remedial class. As someone who, while the rest of us have moved on to metal shop, are still making macaroni art. And worse--acting like they were the first to do it.
Put it another way: It shouldn't require a Linkedin post or Ted Talk to understand "Don't be a dick." At least, not if you're normal.
Justin Bieber isn't normal. Wait. This isn't the insult you think it is.
What I mean is, Bieber isn't normal because he is the personification of a Personal Brand.™ 90% of the time he is a social media expert's dream come true. because he stays On Brand, which is another way of saying, he stays marketable.
Some may see his brand as being a Youtube Phenomenon™, while others would dub him a Cash Cow™. Still others see him as This year's King Of The Teen Heartthrobs™, or a Merchandiser's Wet Dream™. Certainly no one would brand him God's Gift To Music™ but he is definitely a Personal Brand™ no matter how you slice it.
Bieber the Personal Brand™ surrounds himself daily with hordes of handlers, yes men, PR people, journalists, and a bunch of record executives. He is scrutinized under a microscope daily. His image has been thoroughly, painstakingly crafted. He chooses what to say, how to act, how to dress and how much of an acceptable version of himself to show. Bieber is made for social media world, in the worst possible manner. His Brand™ is honed for the spotlight. Designed to bask in the paparazzi glow when he's not busy fighting it. Bieber the Personal Brand™ is nothing more than a corporate vessel, manufactured to disseminate content, and perpetuate the image but not the person. Why on earth would anyone want to behave like this?
In a world requiring Personal Brands™ to always be "on," it is only when mishaps and slights like the one above occur, that we get a rare glimpse of the real person behind the Personal Brand™.
Strip away the flashy concerts and Disney version of an on and off girlfriend saga. Forget the shirtless photos sent to millions of adoring Beliebers. Ignore the perpetual smile and sideways hats. Ignore the ersatz shout outs. The finger pointed to just above ten thousands heads at a concert. Discount the ten thousandth autograph with that perfectly practiced signature. Peel off the Personal Brand™ packaging. What are you are left with?
It's hard to say for sure. But when not maintaining his Personal Brand™, Bieber provides us with clues. There is, for instance, the decadent rich kid. There's also the geeky haired, teenager, lumbering into a warped version of adulthood. Then there's the tattooed brat, speeding ticket in hand, who makes silly threats on Twitter to Grammy Award Winning musicians. And finally, there's the performer who, when he's not busy showing up late for concerts, is busy wishing Amsterdam's most famous hideaway girl was a fan of his music.
In other words, he's an egotistical, rebellious, strange, selfish, and moronic teenager with too much fame. Turns out under that Personal Brand™ exterior exists a real human being, warts and all.
And how great is that?
*In the interest of generating a new buzz word, here is my contribution: A Marketing Charlatan is a Shmarkatan.™