Going Off Brand

I’m backed up to a free air hose.

That’s a sentence I’ve always wanted to say. Not necessarily because I want to be pregnant – which is what being backed up to a free air hose is in western parlance – but because I want to say awesome phrases that have no apparent connection to their meaning. “How are you, Gillian?” “I’m backed up to a free air hose.” “No way!” “Congrats!” Etc.

Granted, the origin of getting oneself backed up to (into?) (onto?) a free air hose is mysterious; as such it may be meaningless. I found it in the back of a cowboy song and poetry collection and I’m trusting it’s correct. May the cowboy gods punish me should I ever misuse the phrase.

I wonder if the cowboy gods roil in the sky while mortals co-opt their words for other nefarious purposes.

“Giddyup.” = Party. (Not, you know, go.)
“Joy Juice.” “Kansas Sheep Dip.” = Whiskey. (Ok, that stayed.)
“Pecker.” =   (Actually means appetite.)

To burn.

Brought over from German, the old English use of brand is to refer to burning, sometimes more specifically to a piece of burning wood. Use of the word increased in the late 1800s and through the early 1900s as cattle were subjected to the process; use skyrocketed in the early 2000s when the former middle class, shunted through modern capitalist life like confused cattle, opted for a self-imposed, less smoky but no less painful, version.

Well, I sure feel like I’m burning. (up?) (out?)

Questions I’m supposed to be asking myself right now include: Am I on brand? What if my message is off brand? Can I speak, write, produce something that is not on brand, and if I do, what are the consequences? Perhaps I will confuse someone! Is questioning everything I’m told to do a brand in itself, and if so, is there a logo for that? Because I could use one.

Entrepreneur.com tells us in their “Basics of Branding” article that “your brand is your promise to your customer.” (I have to have customers?!) Am I the “innovative maverick” or the “experienced, reliable one”? Hmmmm.. So many choices! Apparently I am supposed to build brand equity, like Coke did, and then I can charge my customers more.

Let’s see what the cattle have to say about this, as originators of the process.

Okay, so first of all, you have the bosses (investors?) leading the way, saddlin’ up the horsies, and their assistants, the dogs, hanging out, tongues a’waggin’, looking forward to kicking some cattle ass ahead. Everything’s cool, everything’s cool. They go up to the cattle and they’re like, don’t worry, this is going to be a great time. Just come with us. And the cattle are thinking yeah, okay, I mean I had nothing planned today, might as well, and they all head down together, just joking around talking about their weekends and stuff. Even at 0:32, there’s a couple dudes who are pretty keen and jogging, and then at 0:36 you can see the brown guy’s thinking, uh, maybe this isn’t for me. But then he goes along too.

The horses know what’s happening. They’ve seen it before. The guy at 0:58 stares into the horizon with a flash of regret.

So everyone’s gathered in the pen and it seems like a good time, some even run to get the front row, and then. And then. The real reason they’re gathered becomes clear and all hell breaks loose. Have you ever tried steer wrestling? It ain’t easy. The party is knocked into a cocked hat, as they say.

Cattle who until this moment felt unique, in charge of their destiny are rounded up, roped, held down; unspeakable acts done to them, one of which is a logo branded on their ass. I’m pretty sure they didn’t want this, as evidenced by the little brown guy’s turn at 2:22 where everyone’s like, shit, you didn’t tell us it would be like this! And the other cattle are freaking out, trying to help him but they get stopped by Horse.

Once he’s branded, he gets up and runs off, but never the same will he be. You see, he’s offering a promise to his customer. My Ass Logo = Premium Beef. If my Beef does not live up to the brand you’ve come to know and love – Innovative Maverick Beef – please call the customer service line imprinted on my hoof and we’ll refund your money right away. He sort of feels burned in other ways too, yet this seemed like the right thing to do.

I mean, everyone else is doing it.