Humans Are Not Brands or Products

Materialism makes us label ourselves like items on shelves

Kitty Hannah Eden
May 11 · 3 min read
Photo by Bacila Vlad on Unsplash

When absolutely everything from education to health care is commodified, so are humans. As a result, some ordinary folks now have slogans, taglines, and mottos designed to make them memorable despite being, well, just like anyone else.

Because they love the sound of their own voice and would like you to as well, they take to quoting themselves, becoming commercial jingles on a loop. Sometimes, those quotes even end up on shirts and posters in a shop. And they sell as it’s a lot easier to consume ready-made words than it is to come up with your own.

The shoddier and least distinctive the offering, the more aggressively marketed it is.

This approach is common among grabby practitioners desperate for validation and credibility in creative professions like writing. But using branding to bury bad work, lack of skills and experience, and an absence of originality is a kamikaze move; sooner or later people will notice.

But as long as enough fall for the siren song of greed, blinded by the bling, none of the above even matters.

Worse, the more widespread this approach, the more difficult it gets to locate quality products with heart. Too often, those get drowned out by the volume of garbage being pumped out ceaselessly by the blabbermouths.

Coming up with a clever tagline to elicit interest is the basis of advertising and marketing but catchy copywriting isn’t enough. Once you have people’s attention, you still have to deliver what you promised.

Why choose such a cold, calculating approach?

Life is challenging enough without dehumanizing yourself willingly and on purpose.

There’s a difference between using our own experience of being a human in the world to inform our writing and exploiting it ruthlessly.

Harnessing vulnerability to unpack a universal predicament can be helpful when the goal is service. But when the goal is attention at all cost, and we let it all hang out for clicks and bucks without discriminating, isn’t the approach strictly self-serving?

If so, are humans for sale again? Of our own accord this time?


The pursuit of profit and the lure of fame go hand in hand.

America loves to be the center of attention, another consequence of being conditioned from birth to believe you’re the best in the world.

Money begets attention and attention begets fame, and this equation looms large in popular culture.

To be known is the magnetic dream, it doesn’t even matter what one is known for. There’s no shortage of people in the public eye who are famous despite not contributing anything of value to society.

Others, meanwhile, are paragons of mediocrity we look up to because not only are they brash, arrogant, and wealthy, but they’re also constantly in our faces.

No one embodies this mindset more than Donald Trump, who was so pushy he was elevated to the most powerful office in the land, a testament to the power of branding if there ever was one.

The normalization of people as brands is so deeply ingrained in American culture that few even bother to question it. Instead, it’s something to emulate and pursue because — money.

Although seeking to hijack attention constantly adds more noise than signal to the global conversation, no one bats an eyelid anymore. Perspective and critical distance are optional, not standard.

But if we all turn ourselves into products and keep talking at, rather than to, one another, soon we won’t be able to make out any message, or indeed, converse.

Perhaps there won’t even be any message worth hearing anymore above the chorus of “Look at me, me, me.”

Should life be an endless commercial, pitching us against one another as we sell ourselves for maximum profit?

Isn’t there more to life than getting paid?

Humanness isn’t a marketing campaign, but who we are together when we remember what matters most.

Here’s a clue: It’s never what but always who.

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Kitty Hannah Eden

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