There’s no study or test in the world that can tell you what happens to your soul when you turn yourself into a brand
Beautiful Byron Bay has always had something talismanic about it, as the generations of arrivals imbue it with some greater, grander meaning than merely a nice place to live.
In the 1960s and 70s it was the epicentre of Australia’s dropout, hippie and New Age movement. In the 1990s when Crocodile Dundee producer John Cornell bought the Beach Hotel (since sold for $70m to private equity), Byron Bay began to feel a lot more like Sydney, a second home there becoming a flashy status symbol – the yang to your harbourside mansion ying.
Now, thanks to a disproportionate number of midtier influencers and Instagrammers, Byron Bay has become something else, something also emblematic of our present moment.
That moment could be described as BRAND ME.
The Byron Bay influencers’ accounts broadcast a stream of images, advertising a lifestyle that most of us will have no hope of attaining. It’s free-range parenting (vaccinations optional: Byron Bay is the anti-vaxx capital of Australia), heritage homes with $10,000 ovens, picnics with friends showcasing carefully curated baskets of organic produce, a “surf sesh” with the kids before school, crumpled linens in dusty rose (no stains), no screens, minimal makeup and a scruffy/handsome husband.
For the clique of “midtier family lifestyle micro-influencers” based in Byron Bay, to have your life the subject of a Vanity Fair article would be an enticing prospect, but this article is damning.
Courtney Adamo, a micro-influencer whose popular Instagram feed merges her family life (she is a mother of five) with sponsored posts selling “chicly lumpy oatmeal-colored cardigan(s)” is representative of the scene. “They make their own hours and dinners and soap. They have their own brands. They are their own brands,” writes Carina Chocano in Vanity Fair.
People as brands are where we have landed in 2019 (Adamo’s son Wilkie’s “entire life, including his birth at home, has been documented online”).
Naomi Klein’s polemic No Logo was published 20 years ago. The quintessential Gen X book was a call to arms against a branded world. It warned against brands colonising our public spaces (think Nike sponsoring a neighbourhood basketball court) and being used to sell a lifestyle or a dream, rather than a mere product.