I’ve been putting some thought into The Girl Riot’s post on Noah Brier’s Brand Tags site…but before we get to my thoughts, for those that don’t know Brand Tags (and the associated CelebTags) let you put a one word or one phrase tag to brands. The tags then live in a “virtual tag cloud” that you can look through and see how people respond to the brands (and celebrities).
The most interesting part about the experiment is the huge difference in reaction between responses to brands and responses to celebrities. There is a lot of hate toward celebrities as evidenced by, to paraphrase The Girl Riot, every female celebrity getting tagged as a slut, whore or bitch.
Almost as a whole, celebrities are getting treated more roughly even than the corporations, like Wal*Mart, that everybody loves to hate.
For one, a brand logo is eminently less hate-able than a picture of a smug and fantastically rich no-talent, vacuous celebrity simply because of the emotional reaction we as people have towards other people.
While it is true in a sense that people are brands insofar as they have public reputations and representations, The Girl Riot notes that it is impossible to have the same emotional reaction to a brand as you do to a person:
“Wal-Mart responses run the gamut from american to white trash, south park to nascar, affordable to cheap, evil to value. juxtaposing these statements shows the range of emotion and perception–all of which may be true, but certainly there is a range. things that are affordable to some are low quality to others. evil to some is a necessity in some areas where there are no other supermarkets.
yet, Paris Hilton responses are much more flat and one-sided, ranging from airhead, bimbo, and bitch to sexual references, skank, slut, whore, herpes, and blow job. “rich” appears but small, and “heiress” appears once, but even smaller–only one person said it. this does not by far offer the whole picture, regardless of how you feel about Paris Hilton.
The range of reactions is so one-sided because the “Paris Hilton Experience,” if you can think of such a thing without video cameras and sordid trysts also coming to mind…you can’t…I can’t either. Let’s rename it to the “Non-Sexual Celebrity Experience.” “The Non-Sexual Celebrity Experience” is one that is lived vicariously through their media presence. There is no interaction, their image and deeds and comments are just sort of shoved out at people.
Brands on the other hand require actual action. You can walk into a store like Wal*Mart and get a more real experience than you could have with a celebrity. Same with driving car, using a golf club or doing any number of things with any number of products – the very fact that they accessible to us to the point that we get an experience from them that is two-way makes our reaction more nuanced.
Not to mention the fact that, since we have spent money on those brands and, in many cases, wear the brands are expressions of our self, we react and want others to react positively to them.
It’s sort of like hoping your alma mater gets super-selective after you graduate so other people think you’re smarter.
You want people to respect the brands you purchase. You want your money to be well-spent. You are looking for positives because brands reflect you, as much as you may want to deny it (and, if you’re not a brand whore, in the very least you are looking for value in your purchases and thus have a similar emotional desire that others think you chose your purchases well).
Celebrities, they experiences just aren’t real. They don’t exist on the same place as brands because there is no connection to them outside of the imagined.
With no connection to them, it’s easy to trash them.
Which is what’s been done.