May 2017 24

I lost my brand. And all sense of who I was. 

I believe in brands. I’ve made my living off of promoting them for a long time through being an advertising creative. But before that, even if I wasn’t aware of it, it always fascinated me how a product or service could form a relationship with someone in almost the same way a person can. Be it a person or brand, you have an image in your mind about what they stand for, what they provide for your life, and a history of your interactions with them. There’s a comfort and certainty around it.

But I was never a brand until 2008 when I went freelance and formed Fuji Tamale (Japanese and Latin American name, like my background). At first it was just a name to register with the government for tax purposes as a corporation. I’ll never forget the lawyer looking at the name ‘Fuji Tamale Inc.’ and then suggesting I give some options in case it was already claimed. Already claimed? “Yah, nah. It won’t be claimed. Trust me, I don’t have to give you options.” It wasn’t my ego that said it was so special, it was more that no one was as weird as I was. And then in 2010, I started this website as a place to put some of my historical and ongoing work and realized that ‘Fuji Tamale’ could really be a brand. I was reluctant to use it because the name was a personal thing and I was still coming to terms with my heritage, but then I realized that was exactly WHY I had to use it. To claim it back. This is who I am – a half-Japanese-Belizean weirdo. Also, it could represent me, Andrew Bradley as a writer, but really it could stand for more and give me more flexibility as a creative person to branch out into all kinds of things. I was more than just a ‘copywriter’ all of a sudden. Fuji Tamale could be ‘anything’, without the preconceived parameters of ‘Andrew Bradley’, a ‘copywriter’. A creative director I knew once said “Andrew, just when this advertising industry thinks they know you – change.” So I didn’t want to be handcuffed by it.

Anyhow, I took this for granted for the last 6+ years as I sporadically posted work, or some blurb, or strange stories from the short-lived Fuji Tamale News, or lately just let it grow weeds as I rethink my next Act in the story.

And then as change does when you don’t instigate it, it came for me and acted upon me. Last month my website stopped looking like, well, my website.

First the slider crashed and the dynamic first-impression of the page was gone without it.

And then, due to a further problem, I stopped being able to even access the site to post or update here. My hosting company suggested turning off my theme (a template I purchased and then ‘hacked’ slightly to make it Fuji Tamale-ish) to re-establish my ‘permissions’. But they had no real suggestions to get it back looking like it always did.

I suddenly didn’t know who I was. It was scary to be honest. 20 years of being a copywriter, and almost 10 as a freelancer, and I had no way to show any of my experience or current direction. My brand had just ‘disappeared’. Fuji Tamale was gone.

And I panicked for week or so and frankly, just didn’t want to deal with it. So I did what I always do in situations like this. I ignored it. I went into my amazing denial mode. Cleaned the basement and did some personal things, ignoring all things creative-related. Turtled. Ostriched. Scarlett O’Hara had a great attitude when she said “I’ll deal with it tomorrow”. And so I channeled her. One tomorrow turned into about three weeks of them.

And now, looking back, I’m glad I did.

Being free of my little insignificant brand for those few weeks made me realize that like any other brand, I’m not bound to it. And it’s not unchangeable. It’s elastic but also destroyable, even by choice. Although Fuji Tamale itself may not be strong enough to ‘disappear’ for months, or years, and come back, it made me realize that clinging to what I think it’s ‘supposed’ to be only made me feel imprisoned by it.

This website. These colours. The small samples of work chosen from the past and documented here. They actually don’t mean much. This was always meant to be a creative outlet for me, and losing what I think it’s ‘supposed to be’ for a few weeks actually exposed my own rigid thinking. And fear. What I thought was the worst thing that could possibly happen professionally, sort of did.

When I returned from the underworld as Joseph Campbell describes, I was determined to figure out a short-term solution for the website while I thought about a new look and theme. And then … I stumbled across the glitch in the template code.

The great thing is that Fuji Tamale, as it has always looked, is back. And maybe that’s a bad thing, too. It’s possible I may keep this as an ‘advertising and related things’ only brand and spin-off my other creative desires somewhere else on the internet under a pen name.

Although I’m glad I figured out the glitch and my hosting company and I fixed it (saving me days of creative time creating I could devote to other things), it was actually a great experience to feel so vulnerable and lost for a little while. In my mind I started to cook up all kinds of new brand identities and possibilities since I wasn’t sure I could go back to this one.

And I realized, people are like this too. Everything is elastic. We can constantly tear down and recreate ourselves. But by clinging to old models, or thinking, or holding onto what we think people ‘expect’ us to be, there can be no growth. And that is certainly a death model for a brand, be it a product or person.

What will become of this thinking and Fuji Tamale, and me, I don’t know yet. But I hope you lose yourself for awhile like I did.