Jess and I were sitting in the staff canteen facing the window. Across the road was a scaffolded office block, in the centre of the tarpaulin a large sign read 'Considerate Constructors - improving the image of builders'.
I said, "Have you ever heard of a builder referred to as a constructor?"
Jess was scrolling through her phone.
"I don't think I have."
"I mean, if it's alliteration they want, why not go for something like buddy builders?"
Jess said, "I suppose it depends on what they're trying to achieve. Maybe they don't want to be buddies, perhaps considerate is as far as they're willing to go."
"You're probably right. To say that you'll be considerate doesn't mean much. You can consider someone else's feelings but that doesn't mean you will act differently. What about better builders?"
Jess frowned. "It's a bit bland."
I was pondering this when Sophie from marketing came over.
"Hello," she said, lowering herself into a seat, "mind if I join?"
I did mind.
"Of course not," Jess said.
We started talking about how busy we all were, the corporate equivalent of discussing the weather. The company was going through a rebrand and the requisite work was the default topic around the office. As far as I could tell, it basically meant getting a new logo. All I had to do was change my email footer and ask Jess to order some new paper.
"I'm really excited," said Sophie.
"Yes, me too," I said.
"We have our first brand champion meeting tomorrow. Hope you're set!"
I had been selected to be a 'brand champion'. Presumably, this meant enthusing about the new stationary and reminding people to change from Helvetica to Tahoma. Being a champion is no big deal, it seems. A tag once assigned to valiant warriors is now applied to sedentary office workers. How we have devalued the word. The only physical act required would be to distribute company brochures - this champion would not be covered in glory. As Sophie outlined 'the scope of the project', I realised that volunteering had been a mistake.
I had only volunteered in the technical sense. The subject had arisen at a department meeting, Rita our director had asked for volunteers while crushing me with her blue eyes. I left the ensuing silence unchecked, but her gaze had the dense heat of a neutron star - eventually, I folded. After making some cursory notes in my pad, I forgot all about it.
I said, "So, what does a brand champion do exactly?"
Sophie rattled off a long list of duties, none of which sounded enjoyable.
"It's strange," I said, "I wonder where the term comes from. It sounds like a clever way of fobbing off the boring jobs, while still making them sound important."
Sophie didn't say anything. I took another bite of my Budgens all-day breakfast sandwich.
I said, "I don't feel like a brand champion. I would say I am more of a brand endorser - what do you think? In fact, perhaps I am a brand recommender. I would prefer either of those titles. Let's not over-egg the thing - I am endorsing the brand. That is as far as it goes. While I am not unenthusiastic, I am certainly not championing it."
Jess touched my arm, but I continued:
"I would not be prepared to enter the field of combat for it. I would not risk my life to defend it. We are talking about a corporate identity here, not a hapless medieval princess."
Sophie just looked at me, unsure if I was joking.
She said, "I think we should be proud of our rebrand."
Jess looked down at her granola.
"So do I," I said, "it pays the bills."
Sophie gathered her plastic cutlery and smiled through pursed lips. She reiterated her claims then left. I could not reciprocate. There was little to be excited about. I am proud of the company (in a limited sense) and I enjoy my work. However, I cannot feign excitement at every marketing initiative. There is something wearing about the compulsory enthusiasm attached to big business. We all know this but it is the game we have chosen. Al Pacino summed it up in Glengarry Glenn Ross. When decrying office life, he said:
'It's not a world of men...it's a world of clock watchers, bureaucrats, office-holders what it is, it's a fucked up world there's no adventure to it.'
You may call me a champion, but I am still just a man who sits behind a desk.Suggest a correction