A Single Southern Guy In America

September 05, 2003

The Single Southern Guy Brand

Posting has been light due a huge new project at work. However, the project has got me to thinking about the blogosphere. I’ve been assigned to lead our marketing team on a corporate brand re-positioning campaign. Without going into too much detail, we are a private company made up of a division that formerly was part of a public company that has since been liquidated in bankruptcy. We keep the brand name because it is the most well known and respected name in our product category by consumers. However, the buyers for the retailers continue to confuse our new private company with the old, defunct, failed public company. Thus, we must reposition ourselves for the buyers and the industry and maintain the brand name for the buying public. It is an interesting challenge.

So, what does this have to do with blogging? Everything. The Yeti and I have been discussing different ways to expand our readership and how to market our sites. We both would love to blog and/or write for a living. However to do so, you have to get noticed, and to get noticed, it requires expanding your audience. He and I agree that one of the best ways is to bring people who are unaware of the medium to our sites. We’ve shared various ideas that include merging the online marketing methods with traditional methods. Since I had been working on the brand marketing of my company so feverishly this week, I decided to do a cursory look at branding of blogs and my blog in particular.

Keep on reading to see what I learned about blog brands…


The names of our sites and the actual URL addresses shape people’s initial perceptions of the content they might find there. Instapundit suggests breaking news and commentary. A Small Victory suggests sharp biting that eats away at different forms of ridiculousness in the world. The Speculist brings to mind speculation about things and things to come. Gut Rumbles lends itself to an image of raw, uncensored vitriolic rants. Even the designs of the sites contribute to their branding. The Dax Files with its camouflage reminds us that Dax is a Georgia boy and familiar with the country. The pin-up pictures on Liquid Courage bring images of off duty troops at a saloon getting their doses of liquid courage before ending up in an all out brawl. Gawker with its two-column design and various colors feels like New York City gossip.

Noticing how various sites were branded, I began to wonder what my brand was and is it what I intended for it to be. I returned to the very roots of my blogging—the name, the URLs, and the brief description.

It is a curious thing that the reading public, the blogosphere, and other bloggers do to a person. My blog started with the title “A Single Guy In The South.” Its premise was to chronicle “The epic ramblings of a young professional in the South in his Quixote-like quest to find ''the One.'' “ In chronicling the same, it was meant to show the ironies and conflicts for a Southern city boy living in a small town in the South.

The heart of the stories was to come from a modern day version of Green Acres meeting Friends meeting Evening Shade. It was because I was raised like millions of others as a middle class child in the suburbs of a metropolitan area. I do not hail from the small rural areas that I live in now. However, my parents grew up in small towns and, while raised in the city, I was in the South. Such a background offered me the ability to observe and comment sympathetically on the best and worst of small town life for a single guy. It is this different perspective that I hoped was unique enough to capture some attention.

Thus, my ‘brand’ as it were was to be “A Single Guy In The South.” When I finally upgraded from the simple template I had received from blogger I went looking for a template that suggested the South. The current template does that to a degree in my opinion, but it needed something more to drive home the idea of the premise “the epic ramblings” in the rural South. The pictures I added to the template finished the job I believe. The two-lane highway on the bottom illustrates the home of the rambler—the road. As a two-lane highway, it also hints at a place far from the congested interstates of large cities. The picture of rice fields above the road show the road leading into the agricultural, rural South. The gradient bars above and below the title represent the looking from the dirt of farm fields up into the crystal clear blue skies.

Given the imagery and the design, I feel pretty confident that my site says Southern. The title and the URL include the words “South” and “southern.” The balance is certainly tipped in favor of evoking a Southern feeling versus the city boy in the rural South idea. That balance wasn’t my original intent.

Then, we look at the difference in the title and the URL. The title for the most part captures the content I’m trying to communicate. When I selected the URL, I wanted a shorter version of the title that meant the same. Unfortunately, they do not. Neither communicates that I am a suburbanite that has been transplanted to the rural South.

Since early 1999, I have been living in small Southern towns. Rather than the short exposure to these places that most have as they are passing through or visiting relatives, I have become immersed, embedded, in these unique places. I’ll never be “from here” as considered by the locals. I’m from Little Rock to most. Regardless, when in Rome, do as the Romans. These people and places have taught me the joys of backroading, mudding, Sunday afternoons at the river or the lake, co’ beer, the first flight of ducks on a frozen morning, the simple eloquence of local colloquialisms, the tell-tale tug of a catfish on a trot line, the thrill of reeling in a fighting largemouth bass, the spirited struggle of a rainbow trout on six-pound test fishing line, the epiphany of gazing up at the night sky in an untamed wilderness and seeing the Milky Way for the first time, and an exponential number of blessings from knowing the people who live in such places. It has been my personal honor and privilege to live among these good people, to adopt the best of their ways of life, and to be welcomed into their friendship.

All of this returns me to the original point. Despite my premise and the reality of being a city boy in a small Southern town, the reading public and the blogosphere, by and large, have dubbed me the “Single Southern Guy” from the URL rather than the titled “A Single Guy In The South.” Granted much of that designation comes for the same reasons I chose those words for my domain—the words mean almost the same thing and it is shorter and easier to write.

However, upon closer examination they can convey sharply different images at first glance. They portend different, though similar, ideas about the content that one can expect to find here. One suggests observations about a single male’s experience in the South. The other implies the life of a single Southern male. Both are accurate, but are incomplete given the premise. Each describes different parts of the same entity.

When I review how others link to me, I see that most use “Single Southern Guy.” Though I prefer “A Single Guy In The South,” I’m happy to be linked by either (or any) name. However, this split has made me re-evaluate what I write and from what perspective. And to see how it has changed over time.

While all my writing comes from the same place deep inside me, the subjects and the range of topics I write about have changed. I read back over several entries from my first month of blogging. The subjects had changed. Then, the site was predominantly an online journal that did, indeed, chronicle some of my adventures. Now, my writing consists of more essays, commentary, and observations. Some of the shift can be attributed to being “out-ed” but much more of it can be traced to the influences of the emails, links, and comments I have received.

I wasn’t necessarily surprised, but to compare I went to Michele’s archives and read over many of her early entries. Her writing had also changed. Both of us carry the same inner spirit and voice, but they are more effectively expressed.

After reviewing all this, I looked into how the predominant branding of this site as “Single Southern Guy” had affected me personally. My fear was that I might have or will begin to play the role of a “Single Southern Guy” just like some actors and actresses begin to live the image they exude. So I took a sample inventory of my lifestyle and dress. I wore boots long before I started writing. I still wear khakis during the week, old jeans on Sunday afternoons, khaki shorts for summer outings and athletic shorts for working around the yard and for outdoor activities. I still wear my leather sandals at the lake. I still go to the sports pub. I’ve always liked Shiner Bock. And so on, and so on. The only change is I bought an inexpensive straw cowboy hat to wear at the lake.

What I realized is that I don’t play the role. I do not because I am the role. The only element missing in the puzzle is the political work I do on a day to day basis. There are hints of it here and there. Those who have come to know me better through emails, im’s, and even a few phone calls have learned about my political background. Those who haven’t might have noticed that I was wearing a campaign t-shirt in the Lake Day picture, read one of my rare comments on a political issue on other blogs, perhaps read some of my entries at Mike’s when I guestblogged there, or from a few of the items on my Cien Things list.

Regardless, I am pleased to have been branded the Single Southern Guy here in the blogosphere. Perhaps in the future that brand can grow beyond this medium. We shall see.

Posted by Adam H at September 5, 2003 12:26 PM ~ Link Cosmos | Trackbacks (7)
One Fine Jay linked with Capitalist Carnival
water :: andrésgentry linked with Blog branding
Silflay Hraka linked with Carnival of the Vanities
Silflay Hraka linked with Carnival of the Vanities
Amish Tech Support linked with Misbranding
Michael Williams -- Master of None linked with Branding, and Site Display Problems
Michael Williams -- Master of None linked with Branding, and Site Display Problems
Comments

My site suggests myth, and has the feel of sitting down and listening to a good story.

It has been a terrific struggle to move the site from stories of my dating to thoughts on dating to my thoughts on everything.

The public delinkings and the threat of all out blog war in the last two weeks have been eye opening, not because I didn't expect them, but because I realized that the anger was directed at me, not the words I wrote.

Most readers welcomed the change, as a chance to hear more from someone who amuses them and occasionally enlightens them.

The people who are angry are not voting with their mouse, they are haranguing me for "changing."

I have a dozen e-mails from women who want to know what happened to the sweet guy they were crushing on before they found out I was an intolerant right wing fanatic cross burning Christian.

I of course am nothing of the sort, but in shattering their fantasy of what I was supposed to be, I somehow betrayed or tricked them.

Your post is pretty good at explaining your site - what would be interesting is to hear on whether you have experienced similar growing pains as your readership expanded.

Posted by: TheYeti at September 5, 2003 03:22 PM

I never experienced any growing pains of the sort you've experienced. You remember well how I stressed over being out-ed to the locals. But other than that, I have had nothing of the problems you've gone through.

Perhaps, it is because they expect me to be a backwards, ignorant, toothless hick. If they've already assumed this, they're not likely to bother me and even take the time to read my posts. To each their own I suppose.

Posted by: Adam at September 5, 2003 06:33 PM

This is very cool.

At work, we wrestle with our branding. Seems to me you brand in one of two ways:

a) pick a brand name that reflects what your product or service is and let it brand itself

or

b) pick some vogue brand name that doesn't mean doodly and spend MILLIONS driving it

The former are Pizza Hut, Mr. Clean, Cottonelle

The latter are Nike, Tide, Nexium

I tried to drive that point to my managers since we didn't have millions we should relable ourselves with a brand that connotes what we do

No sale.

So I called my blog "Four Right Wing Wackos"

It leaves so little room for inference...

Good stuff, here.

Tim

Posted by: SlimyBill at September 5, 2003 08:03 PM

You're absolutely right about the importance of having a brand.

My first blog was called the Ace of Justice and it had a very cool (I thought) comic-book theme. The idea was that the Ace was the good guy and he fought idiotarians. It was intended to be a warblog/pundit blog distinguished by unusual artwork and my particular writing style.

However, I found after a while that I wasn't all that interested in being a pundit. I didn't have much to say about the war or the economy that others weren't saying better. What I was interested in doing was speculative essays about the nature of reality and one-liner humor pieces. I was also interested in writing more on topics related to the future: robotics, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, space exploration.

I realized that the AoJ was not the right brand to bring together these different threads. I tried doing several blogs at once, but it was just too much work and it was impossible to build up momentum for any of them.

Finally, I closed them all down and took several months off. I was sort of sketching out what I thought I should do when three things happened almost simultaneously:

- I thought of the name The Speculist and found to my great delight that the domain was available.

- Dean Esmay announced his Blogspot Jihad.

- I attended a gathering of the Foresight Institute and met a number of people who I realized I wanted to interview.

About a month later, I launched The Speculist. I'm glad to read that the name suggests speculation about things to come, that's exactly what was intended. The original tag line...

What might be. What might not be. What might have been. Whatever.

...was intended to emphasize the wide range of speculative topics I wanted to cover and to bring the humor component to light. I'm now rotating the tag line every week, but I'm beginning to wonder whether that's a good idea. Does it extend the meaning of the brand, or simply dilute it?

Posted by: Phil Bowermaster at September 6, 2003 07:28 AM

I stand as a glaring counter-example to your principle that the names of our sites and the actual URL addresses shape people’s initial perceptions of the content they might find.

The reason why I chose "Amish" was because "Zionist" would put me at the tail-end of alphabetically-ordered blogrolls.

Posted by: Laurence Simon at September 6, 2003 08:21 AM

I'm waiting for the first real multi-blog site. I don't mean a shared blog, but more a webmagazine.

The main bit of the site would be a shared blog (a linker type affair like Instapundit), while the rest of the site would be thinkers who act like daily columnists. The site could act as a single webmagazine or newspaper on the front page.

The entire site would have a consistant branded look, it would be archived, served, and and perhaps edited by one administer so the various writers just turned in text rather than fighting with the various systems and hassling with typo issues. Ads if desired could be handled through one entity so again the writers didn't need to worry about it. PayPal could be used, or a Sullivan pledge week could be done.

Such a move would bring a lot more attention to blogs than the millions of seperate blogs can do and would save the readers and bloggers a lot of time in the process.

I could be wrong but I see something along these lines as the next step.

Posted by: ruprecht at September 6, 2003 10:00 AM

I have found blogging to be an evolutionary process. Like yourself and Yeti, I would love to wrote for a living. I seem to do far more writing on my blog that elsewhere, maybe because I have found the best audience among those in the Blogosphere.

It took me some time to find my niche in the Blogosphere. I began by trying to point out legal issues and write political essays, but found that I lacked the insight into these arenas that were already abundantly available elsewhere. I decided to just allow my personality to flow into what I offered up for public consumption. I suppose I am somewhat of a satirist, seeing all through a piece of busted Coke® bottle and getting a bizarre picture of reality. Nothing is sacred but life, and life is what you make it.

Will I ever achieve fame? I hope so, but if I don't, I still have my three regular readers to keep me coming back day after day posting my Nightly Mavel Gazing Report™ and making up stories about our former President to amuse them with the Wicked Willie™ series. In between, I try to point out those things I see on other people's blogs that I can rag on, remark upon, rave about, report or review. Every once in awhile, I find something I feel like ranting about.

My blog is nothing like it was at the beginning, and yet, it is still the same. I just steadily tinker, refine, and retool. It is my connection with the world. It is me.

Posted by: Tiger at September 6, 2003 07:31 PM

My site clearly says, "Too much crap! Where do I put it??

"Oh yeah, heeeere."

Posted by: Jett at September 6, 2003 09:50 PM

...and lest I forget in my haste to run away, EXcellent post.

Posted by: Jett at September 6, 2003 09:51 PM

Wow, that's a most excellent post. I never really thought of branding myself or my blog, but now I can't stop thinking about it. My blog has evolved quite a bit from when I started out... it was originally just supposed to be sort of a diary/link repository, but then I realized that occasionally I have things that really piss me off, and "Ryan's Rantin'" had a nice ring to it.

Posted by: Ryan Waddell at September 8, 2003 07:24 AM

"We both would love to blog and/or write for a living. "

You could ask Andrew Sullivan for suggestions.

The topic of blog branding and positioning is fascinating and fun. However, I don't think effective business model could be devised to make the activity profitable. Internet advertising will net you 50 cents and begging will get you two dollars.

Posted by: sugarmama at September 8, 2003 02:04 PM

Thee best bloggg

Posted by: Creno at February 20, 2004 07:06 AM
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The epic ramblings of a young professional in the South in his Quixote-like quest to find ''the One.''

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