Yesterday, Lena Dunham announced the forthcoming launch her of newsletter, Lenny. Describing it as being like “your over sharing Internet friend”, the newsletter is aimed at young women and will cover fashion, politics and relationships. Dunham and her co-creators have outlined big ambitions for the newsletter and hope to surface many different voices through their content. But perhaps most interesting is how The Cut (the women’s section of the New York Times) heralded Lenny’s launch. In an otherwise warm and positive piece, their opening line made no bones about the underlying intention of Lenny.
“The Lena Dunham experience is getting another brand extension.”
Brands — and Lena Dunham has become a brand — must constantly find new ways to cut through an otherwise crowded space and (it just never gets old) engage deeply with their target audience. In 2011, I wrote about Ashton Kutcher’s Twitter client (now publishing platform) A Plus. If you’ll excuse me the self-indulgence of quoting myself,
A.plus has gone beyond hoping that people will actively seek out or notice tweets from brands — or in his case “celebrities” — and positioned it right there next to your Twitter stream. As Twitter, and indeed other social networks, age and grow, the idea that your brand’s voice will be heard through the noise just because you’re good at tweeting is not a risk worth taking. What A.plus proves, is that if you have the insight on your audience to give them something they’ll truly use — like a great Twitter client — then you have also created the opportunity and right to give your voice, your message priority
Lena Dunham has earned that right, and she’s been smart about where she’s used her voice and how. And yet, while the underlying need to stand out has not changed, audience savvy has. And none more so than among the young, enlightened, feminists that Dunham is going after. In fact, she’s helped educate them. Through GIRLS, her book and her social channels, she’s instigated a discourse around our online and offline selves, around what’s meaningful and what’s bullshit, and around what’s art and what’s artifice.
The focus when it comes to Lenny seems to be about modern feminism, but I think it’s really about something deeper — the existential dilemma of self as brand. In the Buzzfeed coverage, Dunham is quoted as saying, “We’ll be allowed to show the ugly and complicated thought processes that go into forming your own brand of feminism”. But take out the last two words and it takes you closer to the nub of the challenge facing everyone today, not just women. Feminism is a part of it, but what’s made Dunham “a voice of a generation” is her creative response to the bigger picture, to responding to mass marketing with self marketing.
I read recently that Millennials aren’t a demographic, but a genre — a cultural style that’s informed by a diverse set of interests that spans fashion and politics, food and finance. What defines a Millennial isn’t their age, gender or location, but their ability and appetite to live full lives amidst a barrage of conflicting messages and pressures. In this light, Lenny is potentially quite meta — a ‘brand extension’ about navigating life in a world of branded extensions. My inbox awaits.