with credit to David Ronick of UpStart Advisors, who, after I drew this branding diagram at one of his seminars, coined it "The Dominatrix Matrix."
One of the most basic, foundational aspects I look at in seduction when coaching a student is her (or his) personal brand equity. Having personal brand equity means that one has created an identity around the self that is recognizable nearly to the point of being iconic. The quintessential example of personal brand equity that I always cite is, of course, Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn was so iconic that it's almost hard to think of her as someone who was an actual human being. As soon as you hear her name, if you know anything about her at all, an image is conjured in your mind -- you know what she's about. It is paramount in seduction that you can create the same for yourself.
It is no secret that I believe that the basic tenets of marketing are wildly relevant to seduction, and I feel particularly so about branding. The other night I watched a clip of Seth Godin speaking at a TED conference (to view it, click here). Godin is the author of Purple Cow, and in this talk, he explained the meaning behind the concept of the Purple Cow: basically, no one living in this world will pull over to the side of the road to look at a cow -- cows are ordinary and very common. However, probably all of us would pull over to the side of the road if we were to see a purple cow, because a purple cow is extraordinary and uncommon. In this day and age where we are bombarded with new products every day, it is no longer enough to offer consumers an average product geared toward average people. There are too many already on the market. As Godin says, "The riskiest thing you can do is be safe."
How is this relevant to seduction? Think about how many times you have gone out to a bar during happy hour and seen groups of men, post-9-to-5ers in blue oxford shirts, khakis, and loafers, all drinking Bud lights, watching the Mets game on TV. These men are safe. They may be great guys, even decent providers or fair leaders, but they are safe. They are yet another product on the shelf that gets passed over.
All of the men I have fallen for in the past five years have been purple cows. They have been remarkable, they have stood out in a crowd, and they may not have appealed to everyone, but they appealed to me -- and my guess is that they appealed to enough women that they had more than enough to choose from.
As a professional dominatrix, I was a purple cow. I was a purple cow long before I knew what any of this meant, and what caused me to stand out in the beginning was really just a stroke of luck. Two weeks before I was hired at the house where I began my pro-Domme career, I went shopping for a corset. I wanted a nice corset that I could wear out to fetish parties, and because all the nice ones had price tags upwards of $200 (at the time, a sizeable chunk of cash from my tips tending bar), I decided that in order to get the most out of it I should choose one that I could also wear out to parties or dinners were I to pair it with an elegant pair of slacks or tasteful skirt. So I decided to forego the overtly fetishy black leather corsets in favor of a subtler corset in ballet pink satin.
Two weeks later, as a newly minted pro-Domme starting to promote herself in her first photo sets and fetish events, the only decent piece of fetishwear I owned was a ballet pink satin corset. Ironically, I kicked myself for not having bought one of the black leather ones, as I thought they would make me look more authentically dominant. Of course, what happened was that amidst a sea of black leather and latex, I was the only dominatrix touting herself in a ballet pink satin corset. Purple cow. I kept the image and became, in time, New York's top-earning pro-Domme.
Therefore, it is important to establish a brand that is unique, that is something that will stand out amidst the nightclubbing sea of girls in the same short jersey dress with the same fake tan and the same highlighted, blown out hair, carrying the same tiny armpit purse. (There is nothing wrong with short jersey dresses, fake tans, blow-outs, or armpit purses -- except that they are everywhere. They are safe. They aren't purple cows. And there is little that is more disheartening than going out and having your look say about you, "I am easily replaceable.")
The next obvious question is... how do you establish your own personal brand? In a recent talk at Soho House given by David Ronick of UpStart Advisors, this subject came up for one woman who was having trouble defining her personal brand as an artist. She told us she was a photographer, a director, a producer, a writer, etc... and that despite her success in the past, in the current bad economy, she was out of work and was having trouble defining her abilities to potential employers. She had no idea how to create a personal brand.
I raised my hand and asked if I could comment, because this happens to be my realm of expertise.
I explained how a lot of people in marketing advise us to narrow our target markets since we can't be everything to everybody -- and that this is good advice. But usually people think of it in this fashion: if you are, say, a photographer, you must choose what kind of photography you specialize in -- e.g., are you a portraitist, a nature photographer, a fashion photographer, a nightlife photographer. And the you must narrow even further -- if you are a portraitist, what kinds of people do you specialize in photographing? If you are a nature photographer, do you specialize in landscapes or wildlife? And so we narrow and narrow and narrow until we are the photographer who specializes in capturing the meerkats of Botswana at sunset.
(You'll have to bear with my cheesy graphs, but after the previous entry I've sworn to make my blog a touch more visual.)
I'm not against narrowing -- in fact I'm quite in favor of it, but I think there's also another way to narrow, and this is the way that I usually advise my students to go about creating their own archetypes. It's also the way that I built my own Domme character, and the way that as my house's director of marketing I advised other Dommes to build theirs.
I chose several different archetypes on which to base my Domme brand. Strongest among them were Marie Antoinette, Vargas pin-ups, and Victorian icons like Mme. Recamier. These three archetypes may seem to have little to do with one another, since they are literally decades if not centuries apart. However, when fused together, their commonalities become apparent. You'd know that as a Domme I was probably interested in things like worship, rope bondage, and singletail (all vintage BDSM), and that I probably wasn't the person to choose for something messy or something ultra-modern like electrical play.
They share all the following characteristics: Femininity, decadence, a hint of superiority, vintage, playfulness, and a bit of tease (yes, even Mme. Recamier, who despite typical Victorian stuffiness was known to dance publicly in sheer gossamer dresses). So when you put them together, you can easily form an archetype that is unique while bearing indefinite echoes of remark. Trust me, no one will think to dissect your brand into its discernable parts.
I suggested to this woman that her roles as photographer, theater director, film producer, documentarist, etc. could find a common thread. What would be in the center of her own Dominatrix Matrix? What is the core that links all of those together? At a break in the class, we came up with the following as her mission statement: "I use various visual media to tell stories that I find inspiring."
In this woman's case, the outskirts of her Matrix were her roles and abilities in media, because she was focusing on what to present to potential employers. But in seduction, your Matrix is probably going to focus a bit less on your career moves and a bit more on seductive personality traits (although as a disclaimer, I have seen some careers that were seductive too).
I'd like to emphasize before I continue that this isn't the only way to create a personal brand or archetype. You don't have to pull from the past, and if you feel that you can define yourself as something that is you and you alone, then that's great. But when someone's confused about her brand, I find that this is the easiest and the most inspiring means of going about figuring it out. Nearly every woman I speak to can name for me her brand heroines (Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's recently came up in a coaching session, for example), the women they see in their lives or in the media or throughout history that they relate to and who inspire them. Chances are that these icons are something similar to these women's ideal selves anyway, or else they wouldn't be drawn to them. (Again, be who you are times ten.)
The next step to takes once you've recognized your heroines is, if you decide that they're worth emulating in your self, to discern the characteristics about them that you find the most alluring, break them down into replicable actions, and authentically assimilate them into your own behavioral lexicon. If we are to use Audrey as an example, then we must ask what it is about her that we find so compelling -- is it her look? Her voice? Her movements? Is it a particular part of her look/voice/movements? What piece of the puzzle is it that we wish to make our own?
My partner James was present during this particular coaching session and he paused me briefly and asked, "Just how far do you go when you choose to emulate a part of someone's behavior? How minuscule can a behavior get, or how mechanically can you break it down?"
"You know how Marilyn Monroe can do that languid smile where the corners of her mouth are relaxed but her lower teeth are showing?" I replied.
"Yeah, what about it?"
"I've been practicing in the mirror."
My detractors sometimes posit that in assimilating others' behavioral traits, we can potentially lose our own identities -- or that in doing so we are basically asserting that we're not good enough as we are. This is nonsense. You can never change the core of your self. But the trappings of your identity are malleable -- and this is something to be happy about. We should be grateful that we have the ability to do this. Would you rather have to power to make yourself into your own creation, or would you rather be stuck with whatever you were handed at birth and hope you got relatively lucky? As Nancy Etcoff wrote in her scientific tome Survival of the Prettiest, "The reason we have a univeral passion for adornment, the reason that photos are doctored and painted representations idealized, is that we long to be not only works of nature but works of art."
Personally, I think of this as empowerment. If I were to tell you that you could learn, as a skill set, the formula for being able to stand out in a crowd and to compel those around you, that you could become the purple cow that draws everyone's fascination... wouldn't you want to?