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July 20, 2008

The positive and negative of brands

There’s a wonderful story on the BBC’s website about the voting of Salman Rushie’s novel Midnight’s Children as being the ‘Best of The Booker’ as part of a celebration of the Prize’s 40 year history.

I haven’t read Midnight’s Children but now I understand a lot more about it. With typical erudition and the wry sense of humour that I so love about it, the BBC has invited readers to summarize the story of Midnight’s Children in 67 words or less. Many wonderful and engaging suggestions have been submitted.

Take Out

As the BBC puts it, in a nutshell what they’ve done is create a ‘public service’ for those who've not read the book. It’s a useful one to me at least, because now there are far less barriers to picking up the book than previously, I’ve got a gist of the story, I know that there’s lots more to that story contained in its pages to discover.

This leads me to the point that I’ve been wrestling with lately around the words of Søren Kierkegaard in relation to the authenticity of brands.

Kierkegaard, the essential existentialist, said ‘if you label me, you negate me’. There’s something relevant about this thought in connection to the question of whether simple definitions or labels can stand in for the full promise of anything in all its glory. 67 words can’t do justice to the book, but they can go a long way to helping potential readers connect with it.

This is the positive and negative of brands. Definition allows for accessibility and for people to make simple connections; authenticity allows for those connections to become enriched through the investment of time as relationships become deep and meaningful in their complexity.

The BBC has given a masterclass in how these two things can come together.

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