Am I altering your aura, your ideas, your dreams…? ~ Audre Lorde
Throughout this COVID-induced period of stillness and self-reflection, I, like everyone else, have been evaluating my purpose, my role, my work, and the relation of these things to my ‘identity’. As someone who’s been in PR and Marketing for close to a decade, in and around the fashion/beauty/entertainment industries, I’ve fallen in and out of love with what I do for various reasons including industry changes, code-switch exhaustion, boredom, and burnout.
Through the journey, at the core, I’ve always held tight a grounding opinion of who and what marketers and PR people are; Identity salesmen.
On a day to day, marketers help companies connect with audiences that they want to reach by showing, sharing, promoting and selling like-minded values. We determine what is important to you (the audience) and we sell it back to you in the form of a product, in a way that resonates with your own perception of yourself.
To me, this reads as both morally problematic as it relates to the sociology of business and entirely necessary as it relates to representation.
Eugene Rabkin wrote about how streetwear is the machine that turns insecurity into money for High Snobiety; “Hype culture is uniquely positioned to tap into the narcissistic world order by creating artificial scarcity and equating the possession of limited edition goods with self-worth.” Essentially, the Supreme model creates an air of exclusivity and you want to be invited to the cool kid's party. But beyond insecurities, marketers understand values, Roger McNamee, founding partner of elevation partners told The Business of Fashion that “provoking people’s emotions has become the business model”; the choices that we make are steeped in identity.
Many of us have grown up in an aspiration economy where we measure our value in made-it metrics. Eckhart Tolle said in Here and Now that we are always in a state of “Need and Want.” As capitalism goes, a large part of our identity is linked to the things that we own and what we choose to consume. Identity salesmen study this sentiment, this feeling, this insecurity, our needs and wants, in order to ignite the little tick that triggers your index finger to click to buy.