What’s your angle?

Today hurricane Irene is hitting Boston, that means a lot of youtube in the morning, on my new $99 Hp Touchpad 🙂

Came across a TED talk Best TED Talk Ever Sold by Morgan Spurlock, the make of Super Size Me. In one segment (10:50), Spurlock asks various people on the streets to describe their brand, answers included “80’s revival meets skater-punk”, “Unique”, “Dark glamour”, “Classic convertible Mercedes-Benz”, “Causal fly”, “Fedex, because I deliver the goods”, and simply “Tom”.

Naturally, I started asking myself the same questions. What is the Allen brand? How would I describe myself as a product to investors? Do others perceive the same image of me as I do myself?

Marketing and PR are huge in the fast digital media-enabled world. Executions in marketing and PR often make or break an otherwise competent product (such as the New Coke, for example). It makes sense then, to find out how to best market one’s own brand in both personal and professional settings.

Following this thought, I turned to look at some of the strongest personal brands in the world: Celebrities. These people live under constant public scrutiny and usually has entire offices devoted to their public image. Almost every interview’s done meticulously to shape the audience to perceive them in a way congruent to the desired image. I proceeded to read the Cover Stars articles in Details magazine.

First up was Shia Labeouf. My impression of him was a funny prankster from the days of the Disney show Even Stevens. Even after seeing the first Transformers movie, I still had trouble getting used to LaBeouf being an action star.

The article, however, described him as:

The 25-year-old Transformers star has thrown as many punches as he has parties, he has a rap sheet as long as his filmography, and when he’s not pissing off studio heads, he’s messing around with another guy’s girlfriend. But Shia LaBeouf may also be the most honest—and complex—actor alive. More than meets the eye? Damn right.

The bad boy, don’t-give-a-shit image is completely different from what I (and probably many others) had of LaBeouf. Yet his recent works seem to hint at this image (action movies with hot babes). The article then goes on to describing LaBeouf’s brash manner in dealing with the public, fans, and his general aloof attitude. Of course, stories of his childhood are mentioned to give the readers an understanding of how he come to be.

Indeed, by the end of the story, I’ve become more receptive to the concept of Shia LaBeouf as an action star, and the general “Hollywood’s bad boy” image.

In contrast, the next article on Peter Thiel seeks to evoke an understanding from the audience so Thiel’s Waterworld-ish vision of a technology-based utopia does not sound like crazy-talk:

Peter Thiel rose to fame by launching PayPal and funding a little upstart called Facebook. You’ll find his fingerprints on—and his seed money in—everything from DNA manipulation to Hollywood movies along with any Silicon Valley enterprise worth knowing about. Now the 43-year-old gay libertarian is embarking on his most ambitious venture: a start-up country on the open ocean that will be governed by his Ayn Rand—inspired ideology. Will it be Thiel’s crowing achievement or the biggest bust since Waterworld?

From this synopsis one can see the general approach of the article(PR channel): describe Thiel’s great track record in investing in tech startups, his personal philosophy and concern with the future of human governance so he seems like the Oracle of the Silicon Valley–so the audience can keep an open-mind to his vision of human governance:

It goes like this: [Thiel wants to…] establish new sovereign nations built on oil-rig-type platforms anchored in international waters—free from the regulation, laws, and moral suasion of any landlocked country. They’d be small city-states at first, although the aim is to have tens of millions of seasteading residents by 2050. Architectural plans for a prototype involve a movable, diesel-powered, 12,000-ton structure with room for 270 residents, with the idea that dozens—perhaps even hundreds—of these could be linked together.

One potential model is […]  Appletopia: A corporation, such as Apple, “starts a country as a business. The more desirable the country, the more valuable the real estate” .

[…]”The way most dictatorships work now, they’re enforced on people who aren’t allowed to leave.” Appletopia, or any seasteading colony, would entail a more benevolent variety of dictatorship, similar to your cell-phone contract: You don’t like it, you leave.

“It’s almost like there’s a cartel of governments, and this is a way to force governments to compete in a free-market way.”

Very interesting, yet strange vision. Most people are likely to dismiss the idea. But when one accepts the Oracle of Silicon Valley image of Thiel, the Halo effect takes over.

Indeed, one’s personal brand can make or break his propositions, ideas, and actions. Building a personal image/brand requires one to be consistent in all aspects of his life. But without an office of marketers, how does a normal person figure out his brand? It probably depends on his goal (punctual and responsible if it’s being an entrepreneur, creative and inspirational if it’s being a designer, analytic and logical if it’s being an scientist/engineer). But should one have different personal and professional images? And if one desires that, how to go about building it?

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About collapsedwavefn

I have a lot of thoughts. Some of them I'd like to share.
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