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Archive for September 28th, 2010

I Am A Brand

I just returned from a business and economic conference in San Diego, which is one of the reasons for the sparse posting this week. It was a fun conference. Valerie Bertinelli showed up for some reason I can’t quite figure out (I think she was betrothed to a businessman, but I’m too lazy to look it up). But even though she used to be married to a rock star, the real rock stars at this conference were people with names like William Sharpe, a Nobel laureate in economics, and Todd Buchholz, an economist and author. Over the next few days, I’ve been thinking this would be a good place to talk a bit about their economic insights.

But then I thought: “Do you care?” You might be asking, “Eric, you write a lot about stuff that’s not very funny considering you’ve always advertised this as a funny blog. Aren’t you being kind of a pretentious asshole? Or more succinctly, aren’t you diluting your brand?”

Maybe.

Stephanie and I have a good friend named Jessica who specializes in branding people and products. It sounds like one of those absurd non-jobs, but it actually plays an important role in our daily life. It helps turns the wheels of our society in secret, like those companies that create the smell of our “food.”

Everything is branded, from President Obama to raisins, to the Gap, to the outstanding hit Web comedy show “The Retributioners,” which, of course, you can see preserved in the amber of eternal Internet glory. Our brand is so strong that Stephanie and I are being told by everyone that a new season of “The Retributioners” is in order. If you are one of our fans, you have probably noticed that the show has been dormant for a year or so. That’s not because we don’t like you. We’ve just had a bizarre and sometimes tragic year, which I’ve written about elsewhere.

We wondered if perhaps the brand of the show might be strong enough that we can branch out to a new show with new characters that I’ve written, perhaps keeping the link and continuity between the two series. We’ve even got some great actors in mind. But our friends in the branding world say “no!”

Wait, that’s not strong enough. We must say it in German: “Nein!”

If you are, like me, more artistically inclined, this goes against your grain. I am a person who is led more by my inspiration than logic or branding demands, which is why I have carved out this little blog space here, “Beauty is Imperfection,” my playhouse, and repository for whatever I feel like doing whenever I feel like doing it. This page has a different “brand” than “The Retributioners” has. It is based more on Eric Rasmussen and his artistic whims, political obsessions and smart assery. This is also a place where, as you can see on the right hand side of the page, you can find lots of music I’ve written, none of which my wife would allow on “The Retributioners” page. She’s very careful about branding. Also, she’s a horrible bitch and practically deaf. (Just kidding about one of those things, honey!)

So I have to ask myself, what is the Eric brand? Well, first:

–*Eric is inconsistent. Sometimes he’ll blog 30 days in a row. Sometimes he stops for months. This reflects his artistic temperament. It does not reflect on you his readers, whom he loves very much. But how do I brand this? Perhaps I should show up on the cover of a men’s magazine without my shirt on and admit in the cover blurb, “Really, I’ll screw anything.” Sounds like a lovably inconsistent guy, right? Even better if I can pull off this persona in a British accent.

–*Eric is moody. Goes with being inconsistent. For that we need dark colors and a lighting scheme designed my Michael Mann. Envision me, if you will, in shadow. I’ve got deep pains I don’t want to show you. Come on, girls, don’t you like that shit?

–*Eric likes “dark sounds.” One of my favorite essays is by Garcia Lorca, and it’s called “Play and Theory of the Duende,” the duende being a little ghost who is the evil version of a muse, a demon who not only inspires but harasses. He provokes those artists haunted by him to create not only things of beauty but things that are beautifully ugly. You can hear his presence when you hear a guitar really out of tune in a good way, a poet who is raw and whose verse whose ragged but whose insight is profound, and I guess in just about anything by Thomas Pynchon or William S. Burroughs. So cue the dark music. Velvet Underground, please!

–*Eric is pretty liberal. Sometimes I think I could turn conservative. The best conservatives are cautious and skeptical about wrongheaded idealism, yet also optimistic that we can innovate our way out of trouble rather than tearing up dearly loved beliefs and institutions. At least that’s what I read somewhere. So I’m not sure why the ones I see on television are all greedy, racist, superstitious, warlike, hateful and conformist. Until they change, cue the color blue!

–*Eric cannot dress. That’s right. I couldn’t in 1984 and I can’t today. I like jeans and t-shirts and whenever I try to do anything with more style than that, it blows up in my face and I end up looking like something Carmen Miranda’s dog barfed up and then ate again. I’ve just decided to deal with it. Cue some jeans and a black t-shirt.

–*Eric is stubborn. Cue nothing!

–*Eric is obsessive compulsive. By day, I am a copy editor, which means I spend my time hunched over pages full of tiny fonts, my eyes flitting about looking for misbegotten commas, poor syntax and diction so bad it might give the paper Dutch Elm disease. I’m not sure whether I’m a good copy editor because of OCD or whether I got OCD from being a good copy editor. Since I tend to stack everything in neat little rows and always triple check the door to make sure I’ve locked it … you would probably agree with my sister that it’s just baked in. So my brand definitely includes some bleach and other kinds of disinfectant (a warning, though, when creating your brand, don’t mix bleach with ammonia! You will totally blow right the fuck up!)

–*Eric has a dirty mouth. Cue the word “ffffff…udge!”

–*Eric has too many hobbies. Like Madonna, I have created lots of books, movies and music. For some reason, she can tie it all together into a career and I can’t. So, cue bustier.

–*Eric is funny. I will try to remember that even though it has not been a funny year, and even though the only thing that has moved me to write lately are the horrible political and economic times. If I’ve got to talk about the alternative minimum tax again, I promise, I will make a fart joke out of it if I can. You deserve the best.

So reader, what would your brand be? What are the most important words you would use? What emotional affects and effects would your brand require? Are you known for your personal integrity? Are you environmentally friendly? Do you offer grits with that? Does your brand make people think of a comfortable home and hearth or uncomfortable Mid-Century Moderne furniture from Denmark?

If this little essay has done anything, maybe it has allowed you to benefit from my bad examples. If you don’t have a goal in life, maybe you could create the brand first and the goals would follow. The world is yours. Take it from me. Or don’t.

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