This is what most bloggers and other self-proclaimed web publicists are all about. These terms have been coined (here and here) by Hugh MacLeod in his blog gapingvoid.com, and the idea is to differentiate yourself (or your product) and become a brand, not a commodity.
That he says is why people write blogs and why people read them. By writing a blog you get your ticket to eternity. You get read and known by people all over the world, you’re not just another X you’re a world expert.
In terms of marketing products he talks about a concept he calls the “social object”. A social object is something that can become the hub of social interaction. It is the node in the network. His example is his “Blue Monster” branded wine. You may say “gimic”, but what’s the gimic? Not the blue monster, the wine is the gimic here. The guy’s selling blue monsters. He got you to buy one by putting it on the wine bottle. This is merchandizing.
The Blue Monster wine is also part of the “Smarter Wine” conversation. The main thesis is that it’s not the wine per se that is interesting, it’s the conversations that happen around the wine that is interesting. And that is true for all social objects. People matter. Objects don’t.
OK I sell paintings not blue monsters. How do you turn a painting into a social object?
If the blog is the social object then the painting is the wine. However the analogy is not complete. The blog is free, it is the teaser… and I get back to where I started. This is going to take some more thinking.