"I'm working on my personal brand," said Oliver from marketing, presenting the straggly strands of a hipster beard he was growing for my inspection.
This was news to me. I thought he'd simply discovered a foolproof method of concealing the explosions of acne that persistently disfigured his chin. "Personal brand?" Quite frankly, I didn't regard Oliver as possessing any kind of distinguishing features whatsoever, never mind a hallmark or designer logo. He certainly boasted zero seals of approval on his packaging.
In point of fact, Oliver is more the sort of generic product you briefly consider purchasing at a Dollar Store but ultimately decide against. Or perhaps he's one of those "Factory Outlet" retailers who always reduce their stock for clearance and include free shipping.
His "personal brand," indeed. If I was a shopper I wasn't buying. Oliver would always be cheapest merchandise on the lowest shelf in the darkest corner of the warehouse. He would always be the Acme plastic cup compared to Fredericka's Waterford Crystal bowl, no matter how extravagant his beard or how many tattoos decorated his arms.
Ah, the sorely missed Fredericka who moved upmarket last year. Now Fredericka had a personal brand. She was a souped-up Lamborghini in our Toyota showroom. It was only a matter of time before she shifted gears and sped away to more salubrious surroundings. And we are left with Oliver who thinks he can fool everyone with a fancy racing stripe, even though he's got a faulty gasket and his chassis shakes if he goes faster than forty miles per hour.
If Oliver's personal brand is our best marketing hope then it's no surprise consumer confidence is down.