James Bond just underwent a redemptive reckoning onscreen. The latest iteration of Superman is, as the New York Times reports, “Up, up and out of the closet.” Rebranding cultural icons seems all the rage. And not just for superheroes.
Many public-facing entities have endeavored to refresh their image, some to fix longstanding cultural offenses—looking at you, Cleveland Guardians—and others to better align with their offerings—the company that brings you this weekly publication is aptly named “Weeklys.” I’d consider changing my own name—again—but the paperwork is as tedious as spelling “Daedalus,” so I’ll live with it.
That said, I am overdue for a rebrand. The louche, alt-weekly newspaperman with dry wit and drier wine schtick is so 2020, and by 2020, I mean 1997. The gnawing notion that my professional persona is past its “best by” date led me to Platform: The Art and Science of Personal Branding by Cynthia Johnson, which I’m inhaling in print, digital and audio forms. Yes, I’m literally mediating my narcissism with more media.
I think my brand-angst is career-oriented. As a writer, my byline and my brand name are one, which naturally complicates my identity and self-image, especially when my work ends up lining litter boxes.
My career has always stratified along the lines of media, entertainment and art; a continuum from the ephemeral to the eternal. Media is momentary, art is forever. Entertainment is somewhere in between, until time and taste determine it’s one or the other. I’ll be 50 next year, which is probably why I’m beginning to think about legacy and the nagging concern that my literary estate consists mostly of newspaper clippings. Apart from a few books and fewer films, my oeuvre is basically an old man’s scrapbook. I need to reinvent my entire premise and change who I am and what I’m doing fast, before everything I’ve ever done ends up in a recycling bin.
In her book, Johnson encourages honest assessments and inventory of one’s current brand endeavors. My social media channels are essentially comatose, my Google results aren’t checkered but plaid and no matter how I try to improve how I present myself, I still look like a character actor in the Motion Picture Version of My Life. But I can change—excuse me—“rebrand.” And so can we all. Join me, and we’ll reinvent ourselves together. And hopefully we’ll do better than New Coke: doomed by our own poor taste.