Melissa Bachman and Personal Brand Damage – Better the B*tch You Know
Squeamishly picking my way through the vile montage of photographs that make up American hunter and TV personality, Melissa Bachman’s Facebook shrine of trophy kills, it occurs to me that the instrument scraping out a raw pit in my stomach, as well as the barrel of my humanity, seems to be her smarmily generic leer, haunting every snuff shot with its inane complacency.
The picture that has hit a pulsating universal nerve, depicts the athletic, robust Bachman beaming over the limp corpse of her latest canned hunting conquest at the Maroi Conservancy in Gauteng, South Africa, the caption reading: “Stalked inside 60-yards on this beautiful male lion – what a hunt!”
Insensitively posted a cutting week after the black rhino was declared officially extinct in South Africa, this despicable image further poked an already sore country, distraught over an increasingly extensive endangered species list.
Accordingly, the snapshot and all the rage it invoked went viral, prompting 257,492 (and counting) people to like the ‘Stop Melissa Bachman’ Facebook page, and 375 000 more to sign the online Change.org petition, calling for Melissa Bachman to be banned from South Africa.
Her signature pose in every perturbingly graphic image seems to be that of her gleefully brandishing her murder weapon of choice – an ominously large hunting rifle – as she kneels behind her slumped, lifeless victim – which she may as well be straddling – for all the respect she displays for the animal’s life.
I am, as are the rest of the world I’m sure, thoroughly irked by macabre visions of lulling heads and ashen eyelids, once arrestingly vigorous and lustrous creatures, as their blood-thirsty murderess vulgarly looms over their defeated carcasses, like a buxom, bronzed pin-up for moral degradation.
In this manner, Bachman has managed to sire herself not only a countrywide base of virulent haters, but has even abhorred the likes of her fellow Americans. The picture is one of grim contradiction, inciting a black, stormy sea of moral and political dialogue across the troubled globe. And all this has taken place over a mere five-day timespan since Bachman first hit the share button.
It is easy to overlook the powerful tool that has helped to brand this woman the devil’s little helper in all of five days, condemning her to a life of social media pariahdom and thrusting the ethical dubiousness of canned hunting vehemently into the public eye. I am, of course, referring to the frightening clout that social media packs when it comes to opening up global debates that can lead to critical social change, and of course the irreparable wreckage of individual reputations.
One shudders to imagine what had to have been going through Bachman’s demented little mind, no doubt devoid of frontal lobes, when she ‘threw herself to the lions’ by publicising this particularly sacrilegious image. It is, even more so, frightening to envision the piece of work that this woman must be in person, in order to call hosting, filming, editing and hunting for the garish TV show ‘Winchester Deadly Passion’ her ‘dream job’.
The truth is, as sordid as it may sound, Melissa Bachman’s intentions were to entertain – that is her job – that is who she presents herself to the world as, and that is how she makes her living. Who she is, in fact, entertaining is a foul can of worms I will refrain from opening at this point, but I will, however, point out that her intentions were about as alarming as any other member of the entertainment industry – obviously to get herself noticed and to present a particular personal brand that would appeal to her target audience – whoever these sinister characters might be.
If you analyse the way she conducts herself online, her use of popular sales tactics becomes glaringly obvious, from her noticeably worked on appearance – atypical of American celebrity – to the way she brands herself as a ‘hardcore huntress’. A bone-chilling trend reveals itself.
No westerner is a stranger to the most exulted themes of media culture – sex and death that is. The show ‘Winchester Deadly Passion’ alludes to both in its provocative title. Melissa Bachman employs these themes by packaging herself as a sexy Lara Croft-esque badass, flirting with danger and playing with guns, all the while baring radioactively tanned limbs and improbably plump boobs.
Though effective in the movies – i.e. fiction, this ill-advised approach to promoting a ‘sport’, riddled with controversy, no less, in a country whose last black rhino is not yet cold in its grave, was one doomed to violently backfire. Bachman was inevitably forced to deactivate her Facebook and Twitter accounts in order to retreat from the furious onslaught that has brought about the absolute abolishment of her online reputation.
One wonders if the woman will ever find work again. One wonders if she will make it through the night, after skimming over some of the murderous backlash.
In the realm of personal branding, Melissa Bachman’s tasteless packaging and shameless self-promotion of a lifestyle, frowned-upon by most, epitomises the granddaddy of all branding don’ts. In fact, she is an insult to the very concept.
We can, however, extract a valuable lesson from her downfall – handle your personal brand with care, and remain ever mindful of the potentially catastrophic effects of mismanaged self-marketing.
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