I was reading the Vanity Fair Article: “Call Me Caitlyn.” This isn’t a blog about how I feel about the issue of transgender, or a personal critique on Caitlyn. I read the article because I was interested in reading about such an incredible personal transformation. However, since after all, I am in advertising, a comment in the article by Buzz Bissinger popped for me:

“It was early May, and Caitlyn had just gotten three letters from transgender women thanking her for the interview and the dignified way in which ABC and Sawyer had handled it. One of them was addressed “Bruce Jenner, Malibu, California,” as if she had become her own country.”

“… as if she had become her own country”

My advertising antenna went up. Wow, a brand can spend millions trying to create that feeling in consumers. Coke is its own country, so is Apple, as are all iconic brands, but it took years and millions of dollars to become entrenched. One interview and the person of Caitlyn Brenner is already her own country. She’s a brand. Someone sends her a letter with no address, just assuming it will reach her (the name Caitlyn wasn’t announced until the Vanity Fair cover broke). But is it just one interview? David Ogilvy said brand is: “the intangible sum of a product’s attributes: It’s name, packaging, and price, its history, its reputation, and the way it’s advertised.” Since 1974, Bruce Jenner has been building his “country”, in other words, his brand, stoking its attributes, starting with setting that world record in the decathlon at the 1976 Summer Olympics, follow-up sponsorship opportunities, television series and movies, Keeping Up With The Kardashians reality TV show, even the transformation to Caitlyn and the Vanity Fair cover — 9 million hits viewing the cover pics in one day — and her upcoming reality TV show.

Businesses don’t determine what is a brand, consumers do

Despite the incredible power of advertising, businesses don’t determine what is a brand, consumers do. Am I brand? If consumers believe you’re a brand, then you’re a brand. The business of advertising and marketing just helps a brand along. Branding works to solidify the brand in consumers’ minds. Today, consumers expect branding to be equally about relationship building, authenticity and doing good works. If a brand doesn’t ring true, it won’t survive. Strictly from a marketing perspective, it will be interesting to see how this brand plays out.

What’s your feeling? Lots of people in the advertising will argue that a person cannot be a brand. Do you see Caitlyn as a brand?

Vanity Fair. Caitlyn Jenner: The Full Story