More competition just elevates Apple's brand to another seductive, unquantifiable, cool-factor level that consumers are willing to pay for... When it comes to consumers -- image can be everything. When image is everything, it's harder for companies to compete on price and features. That seems to be the market today. There are competing products that are cheaper and offer more features. But Apple's brand is just too strong to sway anyone [away]. – Bambi Francisco, from “Why Apple Keeps on Shining”, CBS Marketwatch
[B]rands and images [are] becoming more important than the products themselves, spirituality has become the new currency in the task of winning human minds and hearts.” – Jeremy Carrette & Richard King, from Selling Spirituality: The Silent Takeover of Religion
I once wrote: “A brand is a story. And the customer puts him or herself in the role of the hero or heroine.” I’d modify that definition slightly. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Marc Lesser, author of Z.B.A.: Zen of Business Adminstration, writes elsewhere: “A brand is simply a story or symbol, a way of describing or characterizing an idea, a product or service.”
A brand only exists in the conceptual realm of imagination, story and symbol. Plato taught his pupils that the realm of concepts and ideas was the seat of reality. One has the concept of a table in their mind. A carpenter can construct a specific table. And if an artist paints a still life sketch of the table, they’d be thrice removed from reality in Plato’s view. (Of course, plenty of artists are hip to Plato’s view.) "I do not literally paint that table, but the emotion it produces upon me," said Henri Matisse.
Words are the way we complicate the simple. The deepest aspects of life are about wordlessness – something you can’t articulate. - Pico Iyer
My friend Heinrich Zimmer of years ago used to say, "The best things can't be told," because they transcend thought. "The second best are misunderstood," because those are the thoughts that are supposed to refer to that which can't be thought about, and one gets stuck in the thoughts. The third best are what we talk about." And myth is that field of reference, metaphors referring to what is absolutely transcendent. - Joseph Campbell
Being a symbol, an image, a metaphor for the deepest aspects of life, a brand is more potent than the tangible product or service itself. Myth is riveting not because they are pleasant entertaining diversions. These symbolic stories resonate with the human condition and our wordless longings and desires -- and with our own personal story and the collective story we all dwell in.
New myths are unfolding around us. In A Whole New Mind, author Daniel Pink makes the case that the highly paid knowledge worker’s world of left-brained, analytical information-crunching is becoming commoditized; and lowest price is the overriding buying criteria.
The knowledge worker’s external world is evolving to one where the complementary and (I’ve made these words up) “unstandardizable”, “uncommoditizable” skills of design, story, symphony, empathy, play and meaning take on new importance as valued differentiators.
And this knowledge worker - staring into the abyss of uncertainty in an age of rampant offshoring and automation - is confronted with the ubiquitous hero’s dilemma.
In his 1949 book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell argued that all myths – across time and across cultures – contain the same basic ingredients and follow the same recipe. There are never any new stories, he said – just the same stories retold. And the one overarching story, the blueprint for tales since humankind’s earliest days, is the “hero’s journey.” The hero’s journey has three main parts: Departure, Initiation, and Return. The hero hears a call, refuses it at first, and then crosses the threshold into a new world. – Daniel Pink, from A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Informational Age to the Conceptual Age [p. 102-103; check final version for exact quote – this is from a galley proof]
One of the classic hero stories is that of Jonah, the biblical prophet that was stranded in the belly of a whale. What you might not know of the story is that Jonah refused to listen to the faint voice within him (some would call that voice God) that told him to go to Nineveh to help the people there. If only the voice had counseled him to get his warriors together to destroy Nineveh – that would have aligned with his inclinations. Nineveh, being a major city in the enemy country of Assyria, was the last place a leader of Israel desired to head. So he did the sensible thing and booked passage on a ship going in the opposite direction towards Spain. To make a long myth short, a perfect storm rose up and nearly capsized the ship. Jonah was certain he was the cause of the storm and pleaded to be thrown overboard in order to spare the other passengers. And that’s how he ended up in the belly of a whale. After three days, the whale spit Jonah out on the beach where he had departed to Spain.
Refusing the hero’s call is so prevalent in universal myths and in individuals’ lives that psychologist Abraham Maslow - most commonly known for his hierarchy of needs pyramid – named the phenomena the “Jonah Complex.”
We fear our highest possibilities (as well as our lowest ones). We are generally afraid to become that which we can glimpse in our most perfect moment, under the most perfect conditions, under conditions of greatest courage. We enjoy and even thrill to the godlike possibilities we see in ourselves in such peak moments. And yet we simultaneously shiver with weakness, awe, and fear before these very same possibilities. – Abraham Maslow, from The Farther Reaches of Human Nature
So finally we depart. Often unwillingly - I’ve been unceremoniously kicked out on my ass as the beginning on my heroine’s journey more often than not. What can we say of the hero’s return?
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time. - T.S. Eliot, from "Little Gidding" (last of Four Quartets)
One of the paths of inner work in biblical myth is called teshuva. A hard word to translate, its closest equivalent might be “return.”
To return is one of the prime goals in biblical myth. The most profound return is the return from the exile of the self. Teshuva is an act of spiritual excavation, digging beyond the buildup of dust to the authenticity that has always rested deep within. One of the great gifts as well as dangers of spiritual movements of return, whether it be the Great Awakening Revivals of 1800s America or the waves of New Age religiosity presently washing up in the world, is that when hearts are stirred, they are stirred en masse. Though the call may be addressed to the individual person, all too often the call of the community triumphs over the quiet call of the individual’s own heart. – Biblical scholar Marc Gafni, from Soulprints
Departure, Initiation, Return. Whew, we’re finally done, eh? Not so fast. Psychologist and researcher Clare W. Graves interviewed thousands of people and found that:
At each stage of human existence the adult man is off on his quest of the holy grail, the way of life he seeks by which to live… As he sets off on each quest he believes he will find the answer to his existence. Yet, much to his surprise and much to his dismay, he finds at each stage that the solution to existence is not the solution he has come to find. Every stage he reaches leaves him disconcerted and perplexed. It is simply that as he solves one set of human problems he finds a new set in their place.
The turbulence and chaos that enters the hero’s life and leads him or her to embark on a self-questing self-questioning dialectic lands them at a higher level of order. At this new plateau, the view is clear again and we may notice that there is another set of hills you couldn’t possibly spot from below. What may have originally started as a quest for basic safety when achieved becomes the departure point for the next quest. For instance, I heard a wealthy person remark that he once thought money would solve everything - but, he said, there are problems that money cannot solve.
We have not even to risk the adventure alone,
for the Hero's of all time have gone before us.
The Labyrinth is thoroughly known;
we have only to follow the thread of the Hero's path
And where we have thought to find an abomination,
we will find a God.
Where we have thought to slay another,
we shall slay ourselves,
Where we have thought to travel outward,
we will come to the center of our existence.
And where we have thought to be alone,
we will be with all the world. – Joseph Campbell