Branding Garbage — The Justin Gignac Story

In the West African city that i call home and across any number of cities I have visited in the region, you will find men of varying ages working on garbage dumps.

Some are of the white blue collar variety, working for a solid waste disposal company. These have offices they sit in when not working the trucks, and even though the pay is not much, they can aspire to make supervisor one day or even to drive the truck. A few have been known to own their own garbage disposal company in the end.

Others are scavengers rifling through people’s trash in front of their homes or in the mini dump close by for unbroken bottles (plastic or glass), scraps or whole pieces of metal, anything that looks like it is salvageable either in its current form or converted to another. These scavengers sell their finds to a set of buyers in the locality who turn the trash to profit eventually, the process of which is a subject for another day.

A third set of these men work in and around the city’s garbage dump which is usually located far away on the outskirts and the trash is used as landfill. These men do the same thing as our scavengers just on a bigger scale. They are seemingly at the source, as all aggregated solid waste reaches these dumps eventually and a whole lot of what the scavengers missed will be there for them to find, clean, melt down to convert to another item, or just to sell their find down the supply chain as raw material for another cycle of production which will one day find itself back at the dump.

Every one of these people work hard in their own way and I have encountered an wrought-iron artist who sources his material from some of the dumps around his city, transports them to his work space and transforms our waste to valuable works of art.

One such artist is Justin Gignac, a New York City based artist and entrepreneur who began selling garbage in 2001 after a co-worker challenged the importance of package design. To prove them wrong, he set out to find something that no one would ever buy, and package it to sell. In looking around the dirty streets of Times Square, garbage was the perfect answer. People love New York, aspire to go there, walk in Times Square among other dreams and desires.

Yet those who live there don’t think much of their trash and here is someone who makes a big deal of it all. He packages this trash as art pieces and sells them. In a sense, he bottles dreams and aspirations for sale.

It’s amazing that he found a niche, cornered it and makes it look effortlessly exclusive. A visit to his website will show you images of packaged garbage in far flung corners of the world.

My local garbage collector, the wrought iron artist and Justin are doing the same thing just to different ends. I love Justin’s approach as he has built a brand out of garbage. Being a brand minded person i salute his insight, courage and chutzpah.

I leave you with these thoughts:

1. Find what sets you apart, one idea that has your stamp of exclusivity even if it’s not original to you. Find the question has your name as the answer.

2. If Justin can sell garbage you can sell anything.

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