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July 3, 2002
Hi, my name is Tommy Abercrombie. Who are you?

In the old days, out west on the Great Plains, Native Americans would paint their marks on their horses. You know. Hand prints. Lightning bolts. That sort of thing. "Me and my horse" the hand prints and icons would say. What was truly great about this identity system was that the marks washed off after the first ride in the rain. It was not a problem. It was an opportunity for the rider to refresh and reinvent and reassert who he was and what he stood for.

I wish it were so simple today. The barrage of marketers who foist their heavy-handed logos on us incessantly diminish our sense of self- even as they promise us a unique sense of identity.

I say push back. It's not easy. But it's time.

It would take a scary chemical like methylene chloride (which OSHA regulates to 25 PPM) to remove the silk-screened "Abercrombie & Fitch" logo from a sweatshirt. But, once the logo was removed, you'd be more apt to notice the quality of both the shirt and the person wearing it.

A stitch puller is a simple hook-shaped cutting device that reaches under embroidered logos and sewn-on patches and cuts the stitches so you can pull the threads out. Take that "Tommy" off your butt and you'd have a nice pair of pants - and a little more individuality.

Then there's that decal on your car. The one that says something like "Krazy Karl's Kar Korral." Maybe a hair drier (used with care) could soften the adhesives enough so you could peel away the decal. Or maybe you could use those nasty professional-strength chemicals that NASCAR people use when sponsors turn fickle and last week's laundry soap becomes this week's beer.

Above all, athletic shoes have made it virtually impossible to remove their often-garish names and logos. I suspect that gentle use of a pneumatic die grinder could remove most molded and colored logos. Please wear eye protection. 86 the logos and you'd have a unique pair of shoes certain to gather comments.

Nothing says: "I'm me" quite like a tattoo, right? But if who you are changes, only laser surgery will let you start over with a clean canvas. It's painful and requires up to a year of treatments I'm told. Maybe no tattoo is the best way to say "I'm me" after all.

I've spent my career helping to build strong brands. So this rant is not anti brand awareness or anti brand affinity. It's just a call to be yourself, not a living billboard. Let the quality of your personal brand speak for itself. And do it with style and a little bit of taste.

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Minneapolis may be a chilly place, but creatively speaking, the city has always been hot. Carmichael Lynch and Jud Smith are two reasons the city has a reputation for smart advertising. Carmichael Group creative director Jud Smith, who has been with the agency for 20 plus years, has helped transform many Carmichael clients into very notable brands.

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