Please don’t make me wear the banana costume
My first job was for a smoothie company. I worked that summer selling overpriced juices of all sorts. One day they asked me to put on the infamous banana costume. I could immediately feel my face redden with embarrassment. I dreaded the outfit, and couldn’t understand why the company dressed employees like this and traipsed them out into the blazing summer heat to give away samples.
I was a lowly employee and only 16-years-old. I pretended to embrace the outfit and marched out the doors. I walked along the sidewalk, as passersby laughed and mocked me. It was the height of my acne days, too. My was face reddened and cracked from medications. The banana outfit framed my puberty perfectly. Then, a friend from high school strolled on by and took a picture of me. I was mortified.
A logo was emblazoned onto the banana costume, along with the polo shirt I wore underneath. The smoothie company owned space on my body, and I hated it.
Brand ambassador programs pay you to promote
When I entered college, I noticed numerous job opportunities to become a “brand ambassador.” These positions afforded students a little spending money to promote companies on campus. Marketing realized a simple idea: peers sell product better than television and Internet ads. If you can buy the peers, you have explosive earnings potential.
Both Amazon and Apple, for example, have brand ambassador programs. Oftentimes, their students are required to hold campus events, meet with administrators, and directly appeal to students on campus. They’re are expected to wear merchandise to represent the brand, use the hardware, and promote the products every chance they get.
These people get paid to use and advertise products they would already love! Then, companies benefit from greater revenue and influence on campus. It’s a win-win for companies and ambassadors.
Many of us market for free
Most of us are brand ambassadors for free; in fact, we pay companies to advertise for them. The bitten Apple logo beams brightly throughout many classrooms these days. It cost me thousands of dollars for the pleasure to share that brand.
People casually display their affinity, and few notice what they’re doing. Sperry Topsiders are paired with Ralph Lauren shorts and a Lacoste polo shirt. It’s easily a $300 look that feels like a walking billboard for spendthrift teens and college students.
iPhones are close at hand, and the iconic white headphones are jammed into ear canals. The world is dampened, but our senses are constantly exposed to others’ purchases. Ugg boots used to be everywhere — they’ve been replaced by Hunter rain boots. Both have well-positioned logos at the heel. Anybody walking behind them could see what they should buy next.
In wealthier places — whether college campuses or metropolitan areas — products are meant to be aspirational. Companies work tirelessly to frame their wares as synonymous with success. To wear and promote a brand is meant to be special — only afforded to the few.
Diesel, Armani Exchange, Coach, Gucci, and countless others are made “cool” by a society that accepts and loves brand ambassadorship. We just can’t help it! We’ve been socialized to appreciate the “unique” — logos just help us buy them faster.
Shed the logos and brands
I don’t want to be a walking billboard anymore. I don’t want people to ask me what brand I’m wearing. I don’t want people to be inspired by what I wear, and buy similar. Strangely enough, I’m also wired to feel flattered by their interest. Quite a conundrum.
Over the last couple years, I cleared out my closet of many aspirational and brand name clothing with gigantic logos. I don’t want to be someone else’s brand ambassador — especially without a regular paycheck. I want to be my own brand ambassador.
I want you to get to know me — the person within the clothes. I want you to meet me, not a terrifyingly large logo of a horse carrying a polo stick. More importantly, I want to see who you are. So, cover up the logos, rid your closet of excess brand stamps, and find your own look.
Bravo, Sam!! I feel the same way. Why on earth would anyone want to be an unpaid walking billboard? Great post.
Fantastic post Sam! I also feel the same way. I’ve also done this with bags/purses. I got rid of all of my purses and bought a handmade one on Etsy (I don’t mind promoting small businesses) made out of recycled rubber tires. It’s waterproof, durable and not a brand name. 🙂
Hey I got a wallet from them (Moab?) and its great!
I got it from EvenOddCreative in Rochester, NY. I’ll check out Moab when I need a new wallet. Thanks!
I could not agree more! I’ve never been big on wearing brand name apparal, and I refuse to wear a giant logo emblazoned across my chest (or butt, or anywhere else). Some logos are harder to avoid – the swoosh on my sneakers for example. But when making purchases I actively try to avoid being a walking billboard for anyone.
I only wear brand names IF I like the item itself and/or because the brand is of superior quality to non-brand name items. I don’t wear them to impress anyone. And I usually get them on sale or second hand.
I hate having the brand name splashed across anything. I don’t mind a discrete logo but I would prefer it just be on the label within the item not on a public part of the item.
When I see someone who is head to toe fashion brands, I think “there goes a fool who has had their mind taken over by Madison Avenue.”
RE: Apple – Apple makes some good quality products but they are way over-priced because of the ‘cool’ factor’ of the brand and they are very hard to find on sale. They are also so proprietary that it is difficult and expensive to repair their computers, phones, etc. No thanks!
our next life says
Hear, hear! The same goes for online brands — not promoting corporations through our social media feeds or blogs. Letting our own individual brands shine through. Thanks for writing this and starting an important conversation!
I didn’t grow up with much, so I’ve never been a really dedicated brand displayer. I’ve bought brands but never to be cool, in, or to show off. What’s interesting is that my husband didn’t grow up with much, either. And now he craves (technology) brands like they are air. And its not so much to display (he doesn’t wave his iPhone around or talk about it incessantly) as to prove to himself that he’s “made it”. I feel a little sorry for him because I’m much more secure in my standing. I don’t need to prove to myself or anyone else that I’m successful.
I wear thriftstorespecials and otherpeopledressme. Basic recycling as it were.
I’ve never understood why people wear tshirts that say the name of a store on them, like GAP or something, but I do love my lululemon, and even though the logo is small, you can always spot a lulu item.
The Phroogal Jason says
I once said to someone that a brand only has value based on what you give it. It doesn’t make you any cooler unless you believe it does. I chose to not unconsciously promote brands I’m not tied to rather work on my own brand and define what that means
When my kids were younger, they went through a phase of wanting the logo clothes, but fortunately by the time they were in high school, both my daughter and her younger brother stopped wearing the labels and told their friends they were not advertising space. One of my friends, after our sons were hanging out, told me she would not buy anymore of a particular brand, but the other for running shoes just were too well-made even though her conscience was bothering her. It was less about the money for my kids than expressing their individuality, and concern for the children forced to work in the factories that produced some of that pricey clothing.
Now, as adults they still are not interested in designer anything, at least in part due to financial considerations. I could not be prouder.
This was right on time. The summer weather is beginning so I’ve been looking thru my summer clothes lately. Well, I don’t have different shoes to match all the different outfits & I started to freak out a bit. I started thinking about who I would be buying these shoes for & I realized I often feel judged by my boss. Once I realized this, I stopped & thought that she makes a lot more money than I do & secondly I am here to work, not to be a fashion statement so now I am happily wearing my summer wardrobe.