I started reading Dan Neil in the LA Times after he won a Pulitzer in 2004. He won the prize for his automobile reviews, which piqued my interest, since car coverage is mostly devoid of actual information (beyond horsepower stats, anyway) and tends to lean heavily on cliches. It turns out that while the actual automotive content of Neil's reviews is a huge improvement over that stuff, what really sets his columns apart is that they're not really about the cars. Which makes sense, since cars themselves are usually not just about the engineering, but about identity, aspiration, culture, etc.
In that vein, I loved the column he has out now about the Ed Hardy brand. The ostensible subject of the column is the new Ed Hardy wine -- if you're not familiar with the brand, see their website for an indication of what an odd pairing it is. But the column is mostly about the vapidness of the brand and "branding" in general.
I love the line about the guy behind Ed Hardy trying to build an "off-the-rack psyche" to sell to his customers. This gets at the key issue: Brands are mostly benign when they convey useful information to the consumer (e.g. "Sony VCRs last longer than no-name ones"). They are often obnoxious when they turn things the other way and seek to convey information about the consumer to others ("This person with an Abercrombie & Fitch t-shirt is cool"). And they are downright insidious when they aim to save you the hard work and sell you an identity, sometimes subtly playing upon your insecurities to convince you that their identity is better than any you might be able to build on your own.
By the way, I have you tried Ed Hardy Structured Water? It's so much better than the normal water I've been drinking my whole life.