We Have Fueled the Rise of the Anti-Brands

by Gregg on January 13, 2013

A guy I knew back in my undergrad days at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater used to have a phrase that stuck with me: Never get caught up in the moment.

In other words, we can get caught up in the euphoria about something, or someone, and get carried away, putting our better judgment aside. Think about the Big Game, for example, or a political rally. A couple of things this week led to a revelation.

We have fueled the rise of the anti-brands because we get caught up in the moment. And when I say we, I mean me, too.

On Wednesday, the Baseball Writers Association of America (BWAA) voted no players into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. This is significant, because several players from the so-called Steroid Era were on the ballot for the first time, including Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa. You need to appear on at least 75% of ballots to get in; none of those guys got anywhere near 40%. Mind you, none of them have admitted to steroid use, nor has there been irrefutable evidence they did. But if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck … Check out the voting results here.

Later, cyclist Lance Armstrong announced he will do an interview this week with Oprah Winfrey on her OWN network where he may admit to doping to win his seven Tour de France titles that were taken away last year. I’m still struggling to understand what his endgame is, but you wonder who the real brand winner will be – him or OWN. You can watch the dramatic trailer here.

It’s easy for us to say that these guys cheated and beguiled us on their way to super-stardom, monetary gain and brand recognition – think Armstrong’s charity Livestrong, for example (with which he’s no longer associated). And you might be thinking, “Well, it’s the mass media and the Internet that create a cult of personality.”

Maybe. But isn’t it we – you, me and everyone around the country and even the globe – who:

  • Attend the events
  • Buy the merchandise, like replica baseball jersies and those Livestrong bracelets
  • Watch the programming … and buy the sponsors’ products
  • Talk about it in every communication channel, verbally and online, including social media

We have the control. We can choose to do, or not choose to do, any of those things and therefore hypothetically prevent these anti-brands from exploding. Obviously, a lot things come out after the fact, but there were whispers back in 1998 about steroids when Sosa and Mark McGwire were hitting all those home runs. Ditto for Armstrong’s Tour de France tles.

Early in this blog’s life, I used Marty Neumeier’s famous quote that a brand isn’t what the owner says it is – it’s what “they” say it is. Again, “they” meaning you and me. Sadly, we build anti-brands because we get caught up in the moment and do and say all those things listed earlier. What does that say about our values?

And I don’t know how to stop that, outside of being vigilant about asking questions and demanding accountability. If you feel like you’re getting caught up in the moment, start asking questions. I’d also refer to another quote, this time from a rabbi I once knew: Do you choose who you follow, or do they choose you?

I’d paraphrase that this way: Do you choose the brands you support, or do they choose you?

Image credit to Salem (Ore.) Statesman Journal.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: