Cult of Personality, Inc

Here’s my business proposal that I wrote for a class (Cultural Criticism) in the early aughts. Ironically enough, I was totally onto something and should have searched out a VC company for it.

BTW, DON’T STEAL MY IDEA, I’ll gladly sell it.

In the late 21st century the marketing arena changed from a capital based system to a personality based system. No longer were big corporations able to inundate the public sphere with commercial product advertising. Consumers wanted to not only to buy the brands that they were exposed to but wanted to become the brands themselves. This all started with a brilliant young artist and her desire to move away from the commercialism that was now intricately linked to advertising and not only show off her art, but show off herself. That’s how our company, Cult of Personality Inc., was created.

“The spectacle erases the dividing line between the self and world, in that the self, under siege by the presence/ absence of the world, is eventually overwhelmed; it likewise erases the dividing line between true and false, repressing all directly lived truth beneath the real presence of the falsehood maintained by the organization of appearances.”[i]

  • Guy Debord The Society of the Spectacle

Cult of Personality began with the premise of what would happen if, in a market driven society, people- everyday folks- began using a more complex marketing or sales paradigm for their personal relationships.   No longer was just meeting a person and the weight of the interpersonal relationship the deciding factor in the level of activity or the basis of the relationship. What if all interpersonal relationships were based on some sort of mediated advertising or marketing model. It’s of course apparent that, to a degree, this is what human beings do. From clothing, to hair, to education, to the type of house they own or car they drive, they all say something about a person’s personality. Yet what if a prepackaged persona were created? What would be the impact on corporate marketing if the market were flooded with “reality advertising”? What kind of things would people sell about themselves?

In trying to see if this question had any validity, a survey was sent out to a random selection of people. The questions were formulated not only to discover how people felt about marketing themselves and how they were influenced by current marketing techniques, but also how that influence influenced their responses.

The answers were hilarious, idiotic and enlightening. The enlightening part was that everyone had an idea for how they’d market themselves. Some people took it more seriously than others, but that’s the American way.   People do think of themselves in terms of product. That, on the one hand goes without saying in America, but on the other hand, few would sell what it is they do for a living.  What did this prove about how Americans would market themselves?   Nothing. Only that everybody (at least everybody surveyed) would be famous if they could and many of them may be sociopaths.   Yet if they are, they are indeed “[t]he individual[s], …condemned to the passive acceptance of an alien everyday reality,… driven into a form of madness in which, by resorting to magical devices, [they] entertain the illusion that [they] are reacting to this fate.”[ii]

Company History

We began in the late-21st century after the “Great Advertising Boom”. There wasn’t any space left that was unmediated and didn’t have some sort of corporate sponsorship of some kind attached to it. Human’s were even getting huge salaries simply to get tattoos of brands like Coca Cola. We were “in the midst of “an onslaught of ads that accost Americans at every turn’”[1] There was no getting away to not get bombarded with brands being sold by huge transnational conglomerates that cared about consumers only as dollar signs on year end reports. Congruently, the social media landscape was also changing. There was a proliferation of “reality TV” shows that leveled the playing field between the famous and the rest of the world. Anyone could get famous if they warranted the support of corporate backers. There became entire channels devoted to the viewing of anyone doing anything they wanted. The Osbornes, The Anna Nicole Show, Survivor, Fear Factor, these shows had sprung networks devoted to the shock value and suspension of belief that they were real. Then came the John Traina Show. He was one of our first clients. This was a show devoted to trouble. Not in the Tom Green/ Jackass sense of trouble, but here was a real “normal” guy with no stunt men and just a buddy with a camera devoted to causing trouble. Later when asked why he did what he did he replied that he wanted to start “trouble, plain and simple. I, as a product, can almost guarantee, that if you follow my instructions, you will have more trouble than you can handle.” And he did. Only it took off. More people wanted to go out and do what they loved doing and not get paid for it, just do it. Without corporate sponsorship. On their own. That’s where Cult of Personality came in. We used John Traina’s idea of personal marketing. He would market himself “like telemarketing, in that I would go directly to the people to find potential customers. I would seek out these people wherever they may be, in person, get them into some trouble, and let things follow their own course. Direct advertising! Maybe a little too direct.” At first viewers were skeptical. They were already aware that the introduction of a television camera into a “real” experience automatically changes the dynamics of the space.

Yet the idea of actually becoming an individual again was appealing. Not having to drink only Coca Cola. People started drinking water out of the sink. It was a small step, but it was felt in the pockets of the largest conglomerates in the world. Tags were being cut out of clothes. People began writing their own names on things again (as opposed to using the “property of” stamps they were paid to use). It became a small countercultural revolution.

Then came Amanda W. and her turning the tide and being the first person to market herself “Because she wanted to.” This idea was not new and had been debated in the late 20th century. When large transnational media corporations began their conglomeration stage, the voices of dissent and skepticism felt it was a conspiracy ploy to destroy the “public sphere” and create an environment for mass consumption only. It was felt that “it is in the interests for the controllers of multinational capital to keep nation-states and their citizens in a state of disunity and dysfunctional ignorance united only by market structures within which such capital can freely flow, while at the same time they develop their own private e communication networks”.[2]   Amanda W. wanted to challenge “a commercialized culture industry effectively clos[ing] off the possibilities for dialogue (dialectical conflict) because intellectuals (such as journalists), including those with oppositional ideas, [were] forced to sell their skills to the culture industry.”[3] She wanted to sell herself, but not for money per se. Sure, as an artist, she would love to make some cash we still existed in a capitalist system, but more than the money she wanted to be famous. She had held a lucrative job as an architect but wanted to sell herself in another way.

Understandably the concept of selling oneself leads the ear to either prostitution or slavery. Yet in a capitalist society, many citizens sold their time, their knowledge and/ or expertise, or their physical labor for cash. Résumés, job applications, headshots, and business cards, were all marketing tools necessary for those who wanted and needed money to find a way to get it. But what Amanda decided was that instead of using marketing to get a job, it was used just to try to get famous. In the vein of reality-based programming she watched some Americans do anything to get on TV or get recognized. Since renting a billboard wasn’t cost prohibitive for her she decided to rent one billboard stating she loves to paint. She wasn’t selling a service or product, she just wanted to get their face blown up to larger than life proportions and have people see it.

It’s important to understand the historical movements of the time to understand the ground breaking innovation of personal advertising. Then it was only large companies who took out billboard ads and had television commercials. Conceptually it was unheard of for an individual to market themselves based solely on acquiring fame. The founders of Cult of Personality asked the question what if there are enough individuals who through whatever guerilla marketing tactics decided they just wanted their faces to be seen. It was then the premise for a lot of “reality-based” television shows. What if every American, or world citizen for that matter, decided they wanted to be famous in this way (in this just wanting to be seen)- what would fame mean then? It was now possible with the Internet for anyone with access to a computer to create a webpage and market themselves on a global level.   Cult of Personality then went on to question: Why was it economically, politically and socially acceptable for “celebrities” (also known as people) to take out ads in trades asking for votes for awards which increases sales, not only to themselves, but also to movie production and distribution companies and so preposterous for an average Joe to do the same? Politicians bombarded us, on the television, in newspapers, on lamp posts, with statements illuminating how much better they are as people than their opponents to sell us on voting for them to increase their individual power in the government. The answer was that these types of advertising had socially permissible ends. Money and Power.

Cult of Personality changed the value of money and power and made fame the greatest asset a human could hold. That’s why now it’s not about how much money or power you have but how ubiquitous you are. How much exposure you can get as a human to increase your personal value which can translate itself into power (and if money was still used… that too).

When the bottom fell out of the Capitalist system Cult of Personality was there to fill in the gaps of personal identity the lack of commercialization had left. Without brands to give them a sense of identity what was just an artist trying to fight against a system and a potential sociopath who wanted to cause trouble- a new form of marketing was created for a new world order. The Revolution put the intellectuals back in power who were able to remove the stigma of big business from cultural production and use the media as the democratizing form it is today.   The key was to not allow themselves, the intellectuals, to become the dominant ruling regime. They didn’t want to become the next power to be overthrown. In stepped the idea of individual marketing.   Since money was in a state of flux, before it went away all together, there had to be some way of democratizing the people to not have an elite class. A way of socialization with out it being socialization per se. The media was the great democratizer.

Cult of Personality is about democratization of media images. We are the anti-thesis of what was the dominant mass cultural movement of the early 21st century. “If Freudian therapy involves encouraging a people to ‘confront’ themselves and their circumstances, the culture industry does exactly the opposite; it encourages people not to think about themselves or their circumstances but rather to immerse themselves in the ‘pre-arranged harmony’ of ‘distraction’, ‘escapism’ and manufactured leisure… Commodified culture makes people feel comfortable because it requires no effort and does not challenge them to think. It is a culture designed to relax, pacify and provide easy answers and ready-made opinion.” [4] Using you and your ideas of who and what you are in a simultaneously ultra mediated yet individually tailored environment, the creation of your media image is wholly up to you. We are simply here to take your ideas and thoughts to the level of the spectacle. There is no escapism here because you can’t really escape from who and what you really are. We work with you, a team of psychiatrists, media consultants, medical personnel, and spiritual advisors to help you find who you really are and how you want the world to see you. There is no discrimination here- only that your personality be compelling enough to sustain the magnitude of constant spectatorship. Even if it’s not when you come to us, it will by the time we complete your media blitz.   Here is the process:

 

 

Product:

You. Answer these questions:

  • If you were the commercial, what would you be selling?
  • If you were a commercial- what would you be? Name an existing commercial
  • How would you market yourself? (Give examples)
  • What medium would you choose for your ad? TV, music, film, magazines?
  • How do brands influence your personal style?   What brands are you?
  • Do you buy just for brands? What brands do you trust?
  • If you were a musician, or actor, or artist- who kind would you be? Why?
  • If you were famous, how would you acquire fame? (Politics, stardom, dictatorship?)
  • What are your favorite commercials? What medium? Why?
  • How are you influenced by ads? Do you notice them? Which ones work on you? Which ads influence you?

As we move you to a more personal branding a branding of yourself by you- It’s necessary for you to know how you see the world.   A lot of people are so jaded by the overabundance of images, that they don’t think about how much work goes into creating a media persona while trying to maintain some distance between the persona and who you are. Yet, we at Cult of Personality don’t believe it’s necessary to maintain distance between the two. That’s where a lot of today’s recent crimes come into play. We are working with the human psyche and melding the internal person and the external personae. This is not about illusions or escapism.

How we can help you

Being that we are the innovators of this form of marketing there is no company better than us. We are based on the principles of spectacular reality. There is no “acting” or “pretending” in the work we do. We are working from the Amanda W. / John Traina examples of real “reality TV”, as is were. It’s can be difficult to negotiate and unless the proper training and support systems are in place, as they are here, the mind can crack.   We at Cult of Personality have the superior distinction of not having one fractured psyche in our 75 years of individual marketing. What we have are a lot of satisfied customers.   We take you to the next level of you. We help you see the you that even you didn’t know existed.

Positioning

As the creators of personal brand marketing, we have the honor of having access to every piece of public space available. Even our competitors must come to us. That says a lot about them. Yet we are fair, since we were created in the spirit of democracy, and we gladly share space, but rest assured- our customers come first. So, except for some places of religious worship, we can get you whereever you want to be. Based on what approach you take, we can get your face anywhere on the planet.

Services

As we stated earlier, we work closely with medical personnel and psychiatrists to insure the physical and mental stability of our clients. Being in the public eye affects people differently and fame can sometimes be a little overwhelming. We understand that and take all aspects of fame into consideration. We’ve been studying the famous for years. Using the late 20th century as a model for fame’s excesses (like Robert Downey Jr. and Winona Ryder) we’ve use these people who were up and then down as case studies for behavioral types. Now Dr. Robert Downey Jr. became Head of Fame Studies here shortly after presenting his Nobel Peace Prize winning paper discussing fame as commodity and revolutionizing modern economic thought. We also have a staff well educated in the Frankfurt School of thought emphasizing the importance of public discourse and maintain the omni- dimensional system of democratized marketing.

Pricing

Pricing is based on a case by case basis. See your consultant for more on this. We do accept Property Rights as a acceptable form of payment.

Notes:

  • Cult of Personality is not responsible for any sort of mental breakdown you might have as a result of being constantly in the public eye. If this is what you want- REALLY– want we’ll give it to you.
  • Cult of Personality is not responsible for any lawsuits arising from any actions taken by you or to you as a result of your fame. We make people famous. We can’t make people like you.   But we will have doctors available for to help put you back together.
  • Cult of Personality can not take responsibility for the cleaning of billboards, hate mail, or any other negative reactions to your ad. We will have doctors available with medications to make you feel better about yourself.
  • Cult of Personality cannot be held responsible for any unhappiness or lack of worth you might feel in the emptiness of shallow hollow fame. We do have doctors available with medications to make you not really think about that all the time and believe you know you more than anyone else could. Anna Nicole Smith has been cryogenically frozen and is unthawed bi-annually for such cases.

[1] McChesney, Robert. Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times. New

York: The New Press,1999. 41

[2] Louw, P. Eric. The Media and Cultural Production. London: Sage, 2001.92

[3] ibid. 97

[4] ibid. 97

[i] Debord, Guy. The Society of the Spectacle. New York: Zone Books, 1995. 153

[ii] ibid.


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