“Tumblr prides itself on being a home for brands, established and emerging, we at Yahoo are all about brands,” Mayer said on the call.
not to be too too too cynical but I know all the people I follow on Tumblr and all the people who follow me are united in one thing and one thing only: their ravenous enthusiasm for brands. “I came for the sense of a new community, one with a keen feel for the visual but with a passion for language, too,” they say, “but it’s the brands that keep me here. Sweet Christ I love brands. Let the mountains collapse into dust and the oceans all boil, but give me brands,” they cry in the night. I personally remember, as a child, pleading with my parents to let me interface with my favorite brands. And interface we did. With the brands. The glorious, glorious brands
I cried…but I’m not sure why.
Just to play “Devil’s Advocate” here, I would like to point out that Tumblr is, in fact, all about brands. “Doctor Who” is a brand, “Disney Animation” is a brand, “Supernatural” “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” “Canon Digital Cameras” “Instagram” “Star Wars” “L’Oreal Hair Products”, hell even “Homestuck” are ALL brands. It’s just on Tumblr we call them “fandoms” instead.
I cannot tell you how many products, shows, books, and other media I have consumed and loved in the last year, simply because I saw people excited about it on my dash. We are all advertising and marketing these brands 36 hours a day, 8 days a week through GIFsets, meta posts, and snarky anon messages.
As it stands now, Tumblr only barely (if that) breaks even on it’s operating costs, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that if we want this site to continue, it is going to have to start capitalizing on the fact that we are all DAMN good at selling stuff.
David Karp (who is still CEO) has continually expressed an interest in ads that are “content in and of themselves” and Marissa Mayer (CEO of Yahoo! to whom David directly reports) has said that she supports this view of advertising becoming as good as the content itself.
I’ve seen a couple of things saying things to this effect, and I have to say, there isn’t much I disagree with more. No, just because there’s a thing you like a lot and it’s a thing doesn’t make it a brand. You can choose to think of the things you like as brands, if you like; that’s a discourse in which you can frame the world, if you like. I don’t, however, like. The Mountain Goats aren’t a brand; Thomas Malory’s not a brand; Joan Didion’s not a brand. I could conceive of them that way, if the ideology of branding were something in which I wanted to participate, but I think that calling the thing you love and are passionate about a “brand” is choosing to reduce the thing you love and are passionate about to its trappings; its externals; the parts about it that have almost nothing to do with what makes it special. Not everything is a brand, unless that’s the lens through which you choose to view the world. For the life of me, unless you stood to profit considerably from it, I cannot conceive of why one would choose to use this unpleasant lens. I’m not “advertising a brand” when I talk about music I enjoy, books I enjoy, food I like to cook. I’m sharing an experience with people who’re interested in knowing what my experiences are, who want to have a sort of dialogue with me, to meet out there in the amazing fertile field of music or literature, or cooking, even. To think of all this as “advertising a brand” is almost too depressing to bear. Yes, again: you can choose to think of it that way. Why on earth would you, though?
On the prospect of “advertising being as good as the content itself” the less said the better: no thanks, forever.
standing ovation. the lens of branding is a terribly stifling lens to have on the world.