My thoughts today, dear readers, come from many places. They are in a way an extension of the thoughts I was having when I wrote about who you would like to be, in a recent blog post. I hope I can convey them succinctly and cogently. Please let me know if I hit that mark or if I don’t. Writers always want to improve.
Trina and I took a wonderful trip to Germany last week, with visits to several castles and other areas in Munich proper as well as the broader area of Bavaria. I have also been listening to podcasts, hanging out on Facebook and Twitter, and reading.
One of the broad, prevailing themes that keeps coming up for me lately is the concept of branding.
We toured the Residenz Munich, a place that was both fascinating and underwhelming at the same time. One its many hallways held row upon row of people, men and women, with fancy names and fancier titles, many of whom had died over a thousand years ago. The emphasis was not upon the person, but usually upon the title. The status, social and political, of each person in the hall was prominent. Their branding as leaders of their time was indelible after a Millenium.
Another day trip took us to the foothills of the German Alps, where we visited two of Ludwig II’s castles. The jewel that is Schloss Linderhof was a magnificent, gleaming country residence in an idyllic setting, where the Fairytale King spent two weeks out of a month on many occasions. On the outside, the house, grounds, gardens, fountains, pools, and snow-capped mountains in the background made for a truly lovely and pleasant setting. Then, one went in to see a lavish, over-the-top cacophony of color, crystal, swans, vases, meeting rooms, beds and canopies that at first looked regal indeed, then by the end of the brief walking tour became garish carnival parodies of themselves. I could see staying for days on the grounds, but I would have trouble spending even one full night in the porcelain confines of Linderhof. That castle was the only one that the Swan King would finish before his untimely death under suspicious circumstances.
Schloss Neuschwanstein was a bit better, again looking exactly like the inspiration that it was for the castle at Disneyland. Rising up from a steep elevation, it looks down upon an absolutely stunning vista of lakes, villages and mountains. It’s is the quintessential castle, which is exactly what the monarch wished it to be. Outside, it is a living tribute to the Middle Ages. Inside, it is a tangible tribute in wood, stone and fabric to the works of Richard Wagner. This magnificent castle even has a carefully constructed grotto within the building itself, a bizarre intermezzo in the walking tour of the grounds.
Ludwig II once told his governess that he wanted to forever remain a mystery to himself and to everyone else. He spent all of his money on lavishness beyond comprehension, then kept himself isolated and aloof. He appeared to brand himself as a classical King, one who did not want to give up any of his power over Bavaria to the larger German state, but who knew that his magical style could not survive in the changing world of government. Even years after his death, his monuments to consumption, finery, and having the absolute best of everything do nothing to better explain his untimely death at age forty, by drowning, in mysterious circumstances. His brand now lives on in tour busses, picture posters, and plates of schnitzel in the restaurant that perches just below his most monumental castle. I’m quite sure he would be appalled, yet flattered, by the present day commotion.
Of course, the Monarchs and other rulers of old are not the only ones who have wanted to brand themselves.
Look on any social media outlet nowadays and you can see an odd transition taking place in real time.
Companies, easily recognizable brands, are advertising on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as “people”, telling stores, having opinions, and making “friends”. These are ads, makes no mistake about that, but they are ads of the warm fuzzy kind that pull at your heartstrings and suck you in.
Individuals, fearing that they are losing relevance and being lost in the chatter, are now turning themselves into brands. I have several friends who sing, write, create and dispense information. They do these things very well in fact. They are all trying in their own way to create an easily distinguished and recognizable brand of their own. Anything less that that nowadays, and one faces being lost in a cacophony of Internet noise only rivaled by the visual loudness of the peacocks and swans of Ludwig II’s castles.
Seeing all of this from centuries ago, and now in our own time, makes me feel very odd. I do not want to run to the highest peak and isolate myself, like Ludwig did, and yet I do not want to market myself in ways that feel unnatural. I want to be heard, but I don’t want to sell out.
I want to have less stuff.
I want to do more things, have more experiences.
I want to help more people, even if that means the few people right in front of me in my clinic tomorrow.
I want to leave a legacy of grace, gentility and benevolence.
I know full well that I cannot control the world nor any of the people in it. I will not try.
I would shun exhibitionism, amassed wealth, and influence.
I would like to live on by passing on ideas, kindnesses, and care.
I don’t think I need to turn myself into a brand to do that and be happy when I die.
What do you think, my friends?
Is branding good?
Do you feel that you need to establish yourself as a recognizable brand to make a difference in this world?