Monday, April 2, 2012

Branding in the Age of Achilles: 4+ Lessons

(Second post in the A to Z Challenge)

Achilles sought, above all -- above victory, above love, above the gods -- kleos, or imperishable glory. He wanted his name and reputation to stand above all others. He was the original master of branding. In the end, outside perception is everything. He played the crowds, played to the crowds, raged at the crowds, reduced the crowds, so that they would sing his name.

A century ago Joyce imagined the modern person as patterned after Ulysses: crafty, wily, exiled, searching. We've now entered the Age of Achilles. We sing, we fight, we complain, we demand, we exalt -- anything to keep that name from fading into nothing. It is not the search but the projection. We're more emotional and transparent than past eras -- sexual frustration and dysfunction are no longer dominant obsessions of writers. Even artists hunger for games.

We're tasked to win wars we didn't start. Almost gods, but still vulnerable to the arrows of pretty-boys. So what can we learn from Achilles? Better to brand ourselves like Achilles than be branded like cattle. Four brief lessons. (I've learned bulletpoints from those oh-so-many MBAs I've worked with over the years.)

"Olympian Zeus, thundering up on high, should give me honor--but now he gives me nothing."

We create our own gifts from the discards and the waste. No one is anointed without struggle. No line awaits for easy entry. Our names mean nothing, until we create that meaning.

"But he sensed it all in his heart, their fear, their charge, and broke the silence for them."

A noble goal for all creators: to earn our keep by breaking the right silences.

"Mix stronger wine. A cup for the hands of each guest--here beneath my roof are the men I love the most."

Stay open to outside reasoning, but be unswayed by emotional appeals. Achilles' compatriots line up to tell him how their ideas will bring more riches, respect, honor, victory, stability. Their advice is not all bad, but to follow it would make him no longer Achilles. 

"We'll probe our wounds no more, but let them rest, though grief lies heavy on us. Tears heal nothing, dying so stiff and cold..."

Write failure into your story. Build around the pain. Tears are not adequate action, but nor are they weakness. Iconic actions do not conform to protocol. Mercy is not an anathema, but neither is it a given.

There are (now-peaceful) warriors everywhere you turn your head, but so few choruses to commend them. Words run to infinity, but attention does not. May they sing your song for years to come.

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Any unconventional branding tips? What sets you apart?

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The first three quotes come from the Fagles translation of The Iliad. The last comes from the Fitzgerald translation.
Image Credit: Giulio Romano [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
*Disclaimer: Amazon links are affiliate links. A purchase through them will not give me imperishable glory, but I'll settle for perishable pennies.

26 comments:

  1. I always thought Achilles was sort of a Diva.

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    1. A bit anachronistic, but so are Michael Jordan, Lady Gaga, Bill Clinton and Steve Jobs... :)

      I think you're just trying me to write on divas for 'd' so you don't have Hamlet competition!

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    2. they are, but he was the original diva. ;)

      What? Preposterous.

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    3. The gods are pretty diva-ish as well. Lotta whining around Zeus. :)

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  2. "We're tasked to win wars we didn't start. Almost gods, but still vulnerable to the arrows of pretty-boys."

    It is so cool, the way you can lay the now over the then and make them the same thing. "Almost gods...still vulnerable..." Yep.

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    1. Thanks. I appreciate the kind words and careful reading. :)

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  3. "Write failure into your story." I love that. Great post. Nice to meet you! :)

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    1. Thanks, Cat. Nice to meet you as well!

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  4. Very insightful! All four interpretations are very good advice. I especially like "breaking the right silences." That's how society moves forward: by changing things at the right time.

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    1. If only it were easier to accomplish... :)

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  5. Wonderful information! Thanks for sharing!

    New Follower.

    Happy Monday!

    My A-Z

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    1. Thanks, Jaycee. Glad to have you aboard! Happy Monday to you as well.

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    2. Interesting four lessons from Achilles on branding . . .one of the first things that struck me when I first read the Iliad was his poutiness. I thought, "this, this is the hero? the guy who pouts?" but I can see where he definitely made a name for himself.
      Nice post!

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    3. Yeah, it was definitely an interesting/difficult dramatic choice. It's not a very triumphalist view of 'heroes' on the whole.

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  6. "We've now entered the age of Achilles." It's really hard to say which age offers most to the writer. Sometimes I get weary of the me-me-me-ness of the present age. But then, I love the opportunities this age is so rich in. This was a though-provoking post for sure.

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    1. "Sometimes I get weary of the me-me-me-ness of the present age. But then, I love the opportunities this age is so rich in."

      A good point. Most characteristics have both good and bad sides.

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  7. Oops! That was support to be "thought-provoking."

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    1. :). I actually like 'though-provoking' quite a bit when I think about it. Call it my favorite typo of the week!

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  8. One of my favorite Led Zeppelin songs is Achilles Last Stand. I now must listen to it.

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    1. Now you've got me listening to it as well...

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  9. 'Stay open to outside reasoning, but be unswayed by emotional appeals'.

    Such good advice, sometimes so difficult to follow.

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    1. "sometimes so difficult to follow"

      This seems to be true of much good advice, doesn't it?

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  10. "Age of Achilles" - so true, so true. So many people devoting so much time and energy to fame for the sake of fame.

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    1. It's an exhausting clamor... hopefully an Iliad or two will spill out in the end. :)

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  11. Loving your theme for the A-Z - I'm a big fan of the old writers, Greek myth, that sort of thing. I was lucky enough to study some of it at uni for a few years.

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    1. Thanks! I enjoy them as well, though I mostly came to it after college. Missed opportunity, I suppose! Luckily there's an amazing array of resources online and such these days.

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