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.