Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Fly In Amber

"Properly managed, no brand need decay and die - immortality is within the reach of all."
        - Peter Field, Hamish Pringle

The Mittani is dead. 

Which is not to say that he's dead, dead.  I mean, Alexander Gianturco, some-time lawyer and full-time bacon aficionado is, to the best of my knowledge, still among the quick.  He is likely in Wisconsin, happily  deep-frying cheese curds as I write this.  But, while his in-game alter-ego persists in the digital sense, Mittens is no more.  Not in the human sense.  Oh, you might see tweets from The Mittani® or hear dire pronouncements by The Mittani®.  The Mittani® might write an article or be interviewed here and there.

But that's not Mittens.

Mittens has been absorbed; assimilated into the larger The Mittani® brand.  He's given up self-determination in favor of immortality.  Even on those occasions when Alexander himself speaks or writes for The Mittani®, the voice you hear and the prose you see are the gestalt opinions, directives and insights of the collective behind the The Mittani® brand.  The Mittens persona is only alive insofar as it is undead.

I know.  Kind of creepy and science fictiony, isn't it; Mittens shambling about, sort of alive, but in reality driven by some all-controlling hive mind?   It's all sort of Walking Dead meets Return of the Archons.

Being the insightful readers you are, you will of course want to know how I know this. There were two critical tip-offs.

First of all, if you track Mittens' Twitter posts, they've been nearly non-stop of late, going on all hours of the day and night.  They don't often sound like Mittens at all.  There's no tang of originality, snark or even remote malice in them; they are merely blocks of ad copy barked Turet-like into the ether, flogging the The Mittani® website, or some site administrator responding to tweets requesting new features.  Obviously there are a number of hands behind the scenes tweeting in Mittens' name. 

Secondly, go have a look at the The Mittani® logo on the The Mittani® website.

Do you not see what I don't see?  Exactly.  No chin pussy.

Now, given how dearly Mittens holds onto that chin full of pubescent scruff, I'm sure he pointed out to the logo's originators that his chin pussy was not properly represented in the The Mittani® logo.  After some hemming and hawing I'm sure they explained to Mittens that, from a brand perspective, the chin-pussy is...undesirable. It breaks the logo's minimalist tone and clutters its clean lines and (well, lets be honest) is more creepy than it is imposing.  Now, the Mittani I know would have handed said marketeers over to his minions to be jettisoned into space, cycled through the biomass recycler, forced to listen to Mittens' cover of Boyfriend, or some other equally horrific fate.

But no. The logo remains, sans chin pussy.  And Mittens goes gently into that good night, quietly allowing his alter-ego to be so dispossessed in the name of the greater corporate good.  Assimilation confirmed.   

I'm sure Mittens still retains delusions of independent will.  He may well believe he's in control and merely listening to the opinions of others as he decides what course to take.  However, Mittens now represents a brand, and his words and actions and those of the The Mittani® brand are inseparable, each reflecting on the other.  The longer that relationship lasts, the stronger the The Mittani® half of that equation becomes.  His latitude will become increasingly circumscribed as the brand settles into its niche and The Mittani® becomes intolerant of off-script actions and statements by Mittens that might damage or misrepresent the brand.

Eventually Mittens will be subsumed altogether by The Mittani®; immortal but lacking any independent animus.  The original voice behind the man astride the technetium throne will cease to matter.  The Mittani® will join the ranks of Mario®, Micky Mouse® and Colonel Sanders®; a corporate mascot culturally pasteurized and purged of any qualities that might offend or off-put consumers of The Mittani® brand goods and services.  The Mittani® will make appearances at conferences, theme parks, and shopping malls; shilling for the corporate overlords while being kicked in the shins by tots wielding plastic light sabres and wearing Rixx Javix® masks.

Personal branding is all the rage in the corporate world.  Its siren song promises fame and immortality, and would lead one to believe that such things can come at no cost.  However, the very thing that provides a brand its immortality by definition destroys the individuality of the person behind it.  Icons, after all, do not define themselves, but are defined by others for their own purposes.

Trapped like a fly deep within the The Mittani® brand amber, Mittens will very likely survive the destruction of Goonswarm.  He could even persist after the game of Eve Online itself ends; sold, traded and winding up in a dusty corner of some large multinational conglomerate's brand stable.  He will be ageless.  He will be immortal. 

And, if you listen closely, you might hear the screams issuing from deep within. 


  1. The saddest part about this is the fact that we are all merely brands, the sum total of our years, our experiences, our presentation, our words and our actions. Locked within an ever decreasing barrier of possible responses based on the perception of our brand, both to ourselves and to those that know us. A small circle of friends or a large virtual world of virtual followers.

    Did you not write the above based on your own brand? Of course you did. Just as I do the things I do on Eveoganda based on the expected outcome of my own brand. All of us do it.

    This is starting to sound like an apology for Mittens, which it is certainly not. I've never been a fan of his particular brand and expanding that into a more professional presentation doesn't change anything. But it is the natural next step and not unexpected, at least not by me.

    We've seen others try it. To varying degrees, and I think they'd be the first to admit it, CK, Roc, Arydanika, and many others have tread this ground before. Perhaps not to the same degree, but certainly the attempt has been made to build on the brand they represent.

    I freely admit to building a brand myself. Not for any ulterior motive or personal gain ( sadly ), but simply to promote my own words, thoughts and agenda. One which I have a lot of fun with, and one which I hope others do as well.

    1. Good thoughts and a clever line of argument.

      However (you knew there'd be a 'however'):

      In order to support your "we are all brands" thesis, you have to stretch the definition of branding to the point where it is meaningless. 'Branding' is not merely another way of saying 'personal reputation'.

      Branding is an explicit action or set of actions that creates a means of distinguishing one seller's goods from another seller's that has extended over time to imply a performance or benefit promise. While reputation plays into the latter, brand and reputation are distinct concepts.

      Thus I can't accept your "we are all brands" thesis as a as a point of departure.

      While you may be working to develop a Rixx Javix® brand (Can't wait for the masks, by the way) to distinguish your products, it would be presumptuous of you to project the same ambition onto myself or others.

      I trust you grasp my distinction between Mittens as an individual actor and The Mittani® as a brand driven by agents other than Alexander Gianturco. More on that down below Stan's comment in a moment.

    2. It is a common analogy I use when teaching about Branding, which I have done many times at Universities. People are not always brands, but brands can be people. Think of a writer like Stephen King, he is certainly a brand. That brand extends far beyond his personal control. A "brand" is not one thing, it is many, many things. Brand Reputation, Brand Loyalty, Expectations, etc.

      Much like Mr. King, we are all trapped somewhat in the expectations of our own brand ( of which reputation plays a significant part). Perhaps Stephen King wasn't a good example, since he writes in many genres.

      But it is fundamentally wrong to assume that brands are solely the domain of corporations, or products, or services. Whatever extends beyond yourself, whatever exists about you beyond your personal control - say my friends and I are having a conversation about you over beer one night (something we often do btw) - that is as much built on reputation as it is branding. In fact, at that point, the distinction between the two things blurs significantly.

      Granted, as I mentioned before, it is only an analogy. We often personify brands in order to better understand them. In that way, it helps to think of brands as people. But they are not often the same thing.

      Certainly Mittens is, or has become, more of a brand. But our public persona, our reputations, our brands, as Eve Bloggers or Eve personalities are more based on brand than personal reputation. It has to be so, since we exist merely as visual representations of ourselves. My personal reputation has very little to do with my own Eve persona, or my Eve Brand if you like, because my person is subverted behind a wall I cannot penetrate.

      In that respect then, what I said remains more true than perhaps you might be comfortable with.

    3. Stephen King is a fantastic example. The covers of his books have his name in the same font size or larger than the titles of the books. Almost identical to the word Nike being larger than the word Lunar on a pair of shoes. A known author is a brand name.

    4. As someone who trades in brands, you see the universe through a "brand-centric" filter. Thus, you tend to perceive brands even when they may not exist in any useful or meaningful sense.

      You appear to use brand and reputation interchangeably - one reason, I expect, that the distinction between the two becomes blurred for you.

      A brand may have a reputation that implies performance or promise benefit as I write above. However, a brand is not a reputation.

      Reputation is an attribute of some brands. But, while a brand may have a reputation, the presence of a reputation, does not denote the presence of a brand.

      Oak has a reputation for toughness, but oak is not a brand.

      To say that a brand can be a person is interesting sophistry, but sophistry nonetheless. And teaching sophistry does not make it something other than sophistry.

      A person like Stephen King may have a personal brand (and trademark his name and image), but the Stephen King brand is not the person of Stephen King.

  2. I agree with Rixx, The Mittani has always been a brand. However, unlike Rixx's other brand personality examples, The Mittani has frequently reinvented himself; he started out as a shadowy spymaster, grew to prominence as an antagonistic alliance leader, built on this evolutionary rebranding as a CSM politician, allowed his aforementioned antagonistic traits to terminate that period before now rebranding again as a media mogul.

    Basically, he's EVE Online's answer to Madonna.

    1. Mittens has always maintained a certain reputation but, as I point out under Rixx's comment, reputation and brand are not the same thing.

      As you say, Mittens has frequently reinvented himself, and this goes to my central point.

      Until now, Mittens' reputation has been his own. He has had sole control of it. He and his reputation were one. Now he has given his name and reputation to a brand representing a product.

      Mittens may be presented in that context as a media mogul, but he may have little or no legal or practical control over the website or its content. We don't know. All we know with regard to Mitten's status in the new order is that which the branded product implies.

      Mittens will find his ability to remake his reputation at will circumscribed going forward. Brands represent the organization behind the brand, not just the person after whom the brand is modeled. Brands can be repositioned, but that action is usually reserved for unsuccessful brands, and even then they have limited mobility.

      Mittens may arguably be said to be Eve's Madonna, but bear in mind that Madonna the person was spent as an original creative force years ago. And her brand is so well settled around her, that she can never be other than her brand. The brand, not the woman, is in the driver's seat.

    2. It is impossible to separate brand from the person when the person is a brand. Just ask Tiger Woods.

      The problems, and I've counseled many people on this very subject over the years, come when someone tries to keep them apart. When a brand is based on a person, such as Donald Trump or Tiger Woods for example, you cannot separate the two things. You get into trouble and your brand suffers. Hence reputation is damaged.

      That's why even brands that are built around very powerful people, like Apple or Microsoft for example, don't suffer the same fate. Because the brand isn't exclusively based on a person. Those brands exist beyond one individual.

      The Mittani is not a person. He is a brand. Now more so than ever. Whatever he does going forward individually will impact the brand, that is what he gets now. That is what he has bought into. He stands up and says something stupid again in public and you can rest assured it will impact the greater Mittani brand.

      You can't have it both ways. If you want to have it both ways, then don't put your name on the sign.

    3. I think we agree on most of what you've just posted. I have never said that people can't have or "be" personal brands.

      However, our original point of departure was your statement that we are all brands, and that a brand can become a person.

      The first of the two points you refuted yourself when you wrote "People are not always brands....". Now you may have meant 'not all brands are people', but I take your words as written.

      In the second half of that same sentence you write "...but brands can become people" which is untrue on its face.

      Let's say I create a brand called Javix-pants®. That brand, despite its snappy name and obvious market appeal, isn't going to become a person. It won't vote, take a bath, suck a mint, make a contract, serve jail time, or make sweet, sweet love to Anne Hathaway. It is a concept or a legal construct; helpless on its own.

      The public can come to associate Javix-Pants® with a you, or you could can act to develop yourself as the embodiment of the Javix-Pants® brand.
      However, while a you can surrender your individuality to a brand (i.e., become a brand), a brand cannot act to either subsume or otherwise become a person.

      That's all for today. Quiz tomorrow and I'll want your midterm report outline turned in on Monday.

    4. Ohhhhh...Anne Hathaway...pantpantpant

  3. And the CFC would follow him to Hell and Back. Recent History says they'd probably come back with the Skull of Satan Himself.

    1. Ah, but who or what would they be following? ;)

    2. There is a subset of the EVE population that would likely consider that an act of patricide. :-)

    3. Hey Mord, are you paraphrasing Obi-wan Kenobi?

    4. You don't need to see our paraphrasing.

      These aren't the droids you're looking for.

      Move along.



    I have a post half written on the same subject and with nearly the same title. I talk about the brand and the dilution of the individual.

    Is The Mittani Dead?

    Damn it all. Oh well, I suppose this is what locator agents are for. I must find and kill you for this transgression.


    1. Pleased to know I wasn't the only one seeing it. I salute your insight and am happy to have my thesis validated by your august (if somewhat dangerous) self.

      If you're not going to post what you've written so far, please send it to me. I'd love to give it a read.

    2. The Mittani is no more than a mouthpiece for now. His twitter feed is no longer worth following: spam, spam, spam.

      Please post your piece, Poetic. This could be an impromptu Blog Banter :)

  5. Well, this was a good one...great discussion in the comments, too! Poor Stan...

    1. Heh, I don't mind - branding is Rixx's wheelhouse. To be honest, after reading the discussion, I'm a bit confused about what a brand really is. However, I am unwavering in my conviction that The Mittani is Madonna. ;)

  6. I think the turning point of when reputation becomes brand is if it IS handed to others to continue. If you are right in your assertion that he is having others act in his name (ie tweets etc) then he has ceased to have a reputation and become something more nebulous.

    Hard to prove one over the other but I have noticed as well that his tweets have shifted in voice. Kinda scary when we can even have a voice in 140 characters or less.