POSTED BY ETHAN KUPERBERG for The New Yorker
At long last, Dorothy and her friends walked toward the Great Voice of Oz. But Toto, mischievous as any creature, tugged at the curtain in the corner of the room, and revealed not a Wizard at all but a trembling bald man with a wrinkled face!
The Tin Woodman, raising his ax, ran toward the little man and cried, “Who are you?” The little man trembled, “I am Oz, the Great and Terrible!” Our friends looked at each other in surprise and dismay. “I thought Oz was a Great Wizard,” said Dorothy.
“I did, too,” said the Scarecrow.
“How did you do it?” asked the Lion.
“How are you Oz, the Great and Terrible?” asked the Tin Woodman.
Dorothy glanced at the Tin Woodman in confusion. At last she addressed the man quietly. “Are you not a Great Wizard, then?”
The little man laughed. “Why, I’m the Great Wizard.”
He added, “Good branding makes your target market see you as the only choice, not just the best choice. I’ve spent years researching and developing my distinctive yet authentic ‘Wizard’ brand.”
There was a long pause. “I think you are a very bad man,” said Dorothy, finally. “Well, I’m trending, so it really doesn’t matter what you think,” said Oz.
The Scarecrow wiped a tear from his eyes. “But how shall I ever get my brains?”
“Your brains are the least of your problems,” said Oz, “for your personal brand is as fresh as the hay in your coat sleeves! You need a major overhaul—I can’t tell if you’re going for faux-hipster ironic Brooklynite or ‘young conservative’ urban farmer-chic.”
The Scarecrow tugged self-consciously at his coat sleeves.
“Forget about the brains and focus on the wardrobe, the style, the message. Personally, I see you in a dirty wife-beater and Ray-Bans— playfully self-aware about your country roots, but with a sense of cool detachment.”
“Wife-beater, Ray-Bans,” repeated the Scarecrow to himself. He felt an oddly intuitive understanding, for not having a brain put him at a great advantage in the world of branding.
“Now, there!” exclaimed Dorothy. “The Scarecrow is not a company or a corporation! Why, he’s my friend, and my very dear friend at that! We’re all just people. We don’t need to brand ourselves.”
“What is this, 2006?” laughed Oz. “You’re living in a global economy that’s facing a massive debt recession, and in the past week you’ve killed two witches. I think you’re gonna want an online presence if you plan on ever nailing down a job back in Kansas. Are you even on LinkedIn?”
“I was tired of getting those e-mails, so I set up a spam filter,” said Dorothy. “Should I set it back up?”
“No,” said Oz, sarcastically.
“You ought to be ashamed of yourself for being such a humbug,” said the Tin Woodman. “I will be very unhappy if I do not have a heart.”
“You don’t need a heart,” said Oz. “You just need to build up a social-media presence about your lack of a heart. You’ve got a terrific image: unlucky in love, powerful with an ax, a man made completely out of tin. Now run with it. Are you tweeting at least twice a day?”
“I try to,” said the Tin Woodman. “I know I should. But it’s hard to think of tweets, and when I do tweet often, well, I feel ashamed.”
“For someone without a heart, you should be conquering the digital sphere!” exclaimed Oz. “Get over the shame and start replying to celebrities with active fan bases! Aim for retweets, gain a following, and embrace new platforms as soon as they hit—I’m talking Instagram, Snapchat. Hell, no one’s really figured out Vine yet—that could be you.”
“What about Facebook?” asked the Scarecrow, looking up from his phone. He had just created a Tumblr and was posting a GIF of himself twerking over the words “HAY FEVER.”
“Facebook is dead,” said Oz. “It’s lost the youth. Not hip anymore.”
“I love Facebook,” said Dorothy.
“Surprise, surprise,” said the Tin Woodman quietly. “As for you,” the little man said, turning to the Cowardly Lion, “and your courage.”
“Don’t want it,” the Lion said. “I’ve got name recognition with Cowardly. Why mess with my brand?”
The Wizard smiled. “Someone’s been paying attention!”
The Lion whimpered proudly, and The Tin Woodman slapped him on the back. The Scarecrow was outside, picking up his Ray-Ban delivery from an Amazon Prime employee.
“This is all madness!” exclaimed Dorothy, looking at her friends. “I don’t want to be a brand! I want to go home, back to Kansas, where people care more about trying to be better people than their personal image!” And with that, Dorothy collapsed in tears. Oz looked at the Lion and the Tin Woodman awkwardly for help, but they both sort of shrugged and gave him a look, like, “What are we supposed to do?” Then the Scarecrow walked in, waving his phone wildly.
“Here now, Dorothy,” said the Scarecrow. “I’ve been live-tweeting this entire conversation, and guess what? You’re trending!”
“I’m trending?” said Dorothy, not quite understanding.
“Really?” said Oz. “Normally you have to create content.”
“I mean, I only have, like, two hundred followers on Twitter,” interrupted Dorothy, standing up.
“Not anymore! It seems you’ve inspired people throughout Oz by killing the Wicked Witch of the West—and your refreshingly blunt, power to the people farm-girl attitude! Why, you’re even more popular than the Wizard!”
“Usually takes a lot more work to get trending,” mumbled Oz, taking out his phone. “Jesus, Reddit’s blowing up.”
“Should I post something?” asked Dorothy.
“Wait!” cried the Lion. “You should adhere to your brand—casual apathy.”
“Tweet something in a few hours, just to engage with your fan base,” added the Tin Woodman. “But make it look like you’re not trying.”
Dorothy nodded joyfully. “Maybe I can nail a sponsorship deal and get more of these slippers for free!”
“Word,” agreed the Tin Woodman.
“Let’s get some drinks to celebrate,” said the Scarecrow, lowering his Ray-Bans.
“While we’re there, we should talk about co-branding,” added the Lion, cowardly.
“Hold up,” said the little man. “What about going home, Dorothy? What about trying to be better people? What about going back to Kansas?”
“Fuck Kansas,” said Dorothy, and everyone cheered, for this was consistent with her brand.