Human beings are branding creatures. Businesses rely on socializing to flourish.
Wait… shouldn’t that be swapped? No, not really. The two have always meant the same thing.
Let Your Shadow Precede You
Human beings have and will forever remain social creatures. In gathering do we become strong, and it is in our ties that we achieve great things. Social interaction is why are brains got so large and complex, and is likely why our intelligences developed the way they did.
We like socializing, either directly or indirectly. Social impressions drive many of our motivations and feelings. Why do we use social networking so much? So we can stay in touch. Why must we stay in touch? So we can better participate in social interaction. Why delve into social interaction? Because we’ve been programmed to work and exist within social circles.
Before, the great social stage existed within the abstract plane of prestige and reputation. A man’s word was as good as he made it.
All advertising efforts (flyers, posters, early commercials) strove to reaffirm the product’s prestigious elements of reliability, stability, integrity, etc. Because communication was so much slower, gauging a person meant heavily relying on their reputation. So people had to live up to that reputation.
People were recognized by their deeds. Many surnames came from these accomplishments, like John Smith, or John Peterson (son of Peter). Sometimes even first names, like Victor or Christopher. These deeds allowed individuals to be instantly known when introduced. At the same time, this prestige allowed knowledge about these individuals to be spread far from that person’s physical presence; “let their deeds be known.”
This reputation and prestige is a form of remote socializing. Before actually arriving on the scene one’s reputation has acted as the vanguard, preparing the audience for one’s arrival. It’s an advertisement in the aspect of its introduction. This reputation is, for all intents and purposes, a brand.
What is a brand? It’s a remote presence, bringing awareness to places the actual entity is not. The very word Pepsi makes us think of the soda beverage because we’ve so closely associated ‘Pepsi’ with it; the word itself is a brand. Whereas the word coke could refer to other things, such as the byproduct derived from coal.
The word-that-is-a-brand, Pepsi, has served its purpose in bringing the beverage to our thoughts even when no soda lies within physical reach. Just as in the same way a branding mark immediately brings to mind identity and subsequently, reputation.
But it doesn’t stop there. Pepsi elicits the reputation of thirst-quenching, sweet, cooling, and more. When we are in need of those things, we wish we had a Pepsi. Much in the same way a medieval king who desires victory in battle seeks to hire the most skilled warrior, whose prestige in fighting precedes them.
Pepsi has a specific brand, just as the warrior does. Just as Sally has the brand of being a gossip, or Ted has the brand of being a workaholic. If I’m being nefarious I’ll recruit Sally to help with my smear campaign, or if I need a dedicated employee I’ll hire Ted. These brands are important, but not just when we need them specifically. They’re important socially.
I get a Facebook Friend request, so naturally I look over that person’s page. I look to their status updates, pictures, and other friends to determine if they’re worth associating with by accepting their Friend Request.
Or perhaps I’ve been introduced to someone but I want to find out more about them. I’ll scope out their social networking profiles to learn more about their interests and personality. Do they post up sappy poetry? Funny pictures? Frivolous banality? Gossip? Who is this person?
I judge by deed, and in this case the deeds are what content they share. This content helps towards my impression of them, and works towards my perception of them. This content is that person’s reputation, their brand. And based on what I see of that brand will determine whether I like them or not. This is no different from the brand of a company; like whether a car manufacturer is known for reliable and safe cars or gas-guzzling and high-maintenance ones.
Facebook and Twitter didn’t force businesses nowadays to socialize. Businesses have always socialized in the form of advertising and branding. What’s the difference between taking my torn pants to a tailor and taking them to a friend who’s good at sewing?
The difference is one is making a profit off the task, and the other is not. If my friend has a reputation, a brand of late, shoddy work while the commercial tailor has one of expedient, literally seamless work; then I’m going to decide the cost is worth it and go to the tailor. The kicker is [I]all[/I] tailors were originally friends who were good at sewing; they just decided to make a living off their talent.
So if that tailor wants to be successful in business, they’ve got to make their presence known. They need more friends to know about their excellent craftsmanship and keep coming to them. They must expand their reputation. Spread their brand. Advertise.
Everything New Is Old Again
Facebook is a place for socializing. Therefore it is a place for branding.
This applies to people and businesses alike. A brand is a social interaction. A social presence is an advertisement. Social media allows reputation/branding to precede us, and allow existing connections to continue to learn about you for either better or worse.
William the Snitch is forever associated with his loose-lips, and BP will forever be remembered for that terrible and callous oil spill. Their reputation precedes them, and those incidents are now a part of their brand. Is this accurate and fair? Well, just ask everyone back in the day who was labeled a witch. Social interaction works off of this branding, and bad reputations can inhibit further social advancement. Or in the case of business and/or personal survival, progression and growth.
At the same time, “being as good as your word” or “hailed as the mightiest in the land” used to be archaic. But what about those traits in regards to reputation and branding have changed today? Well nothing at all, really.
So what do you think? Does social networking equal branding across the board, or do sociological nuances drive a much more inherent separation between the two?