I’ve written before about the time of my professional life when I had serious responsibility for what was felt to be A Major Global Brand and how unfortunate it was for everybody concerned that this coincided with the time of my cultural and political life when I read Naomi Klein’s No Logo. I didn’t win that argument, as can be seen from the news that a New York real estate company that has offered staff members a 15% pay rise if they’ll allow themselves to be tattooed with the firm’s logo.
Now, there are a number of interpretations that could be applied to this. New York’s an expensive town, the US economy’s not doing that well, so maybe the employees simply decided that the temporary pain and lasting embarrassment were worth it if the cash were right. They’re estate agents, right? We’ve all seen Glengarry Glen Ross. And then of course it could be that the whole thing is just a light-hearted publicity stunt for the firm, relying on the fact that most news media operations these days don’t have the time or resources for proper bullshit detection.
But let’s take the whole story at face value and believe what the CEO of Rapid Realty says, that his employees were happy to accept the inking because they are “passionate about the brand”. The thing is, I can understand the cold, brutal, business logic of encouraging consumers to believe in a brand, to want to belong, to buy into some kind of collective identity that transcends the empirical quality of the products being sold. That’s where the profit margin lies. But do you really want your staff to be quite so detached from the real world?