I’ve just finished reading the first draft of chapter one of a friend of mine’s third novel. This first segment plays out in the Alaskan wilderness, a place with which we are both somewhat familiar.

One of the characters employs a chainsaw periodically throughout the chapter. I recommended that the author substitute the word, Stihl for the word, chainsaw in one place (and one place only). This resonated with the writer. He replied back that he agreed and said that it wasn’t about brand awareness but about quality. Yes, Stihl is all about quality but I’ve since concluded there is more to it than that.

On my run today my mind wandered back over another email conversation that I had with this same writer where he said ‘words have power’. And I got to thinking about Stihl in that context. And yes, Stihl is a brand. And yes, Stihl is the brand because of their company commitment to quality. But Stihl has become so deeply significant in a cultural sense that it’s developed a cognoscenti kind of thing.

I’ve actually owned a chainsaw; dangerous damn things. And if I never operate another one again for the rest of my life it would be fine with me. But it wasn’t a Stihl. I didn’t want to pony up that kind of dough because I knew deep down inside that I would never operate it enough to truly appreciate it. Like does the average household actually need that expensive set of handmade German knives? No. But that’s not the point I am trying to make.

Some words – irrespective of all of the ponderous nattering these days about Brands – do in fact have power. And the only meaningful thing that I have to say about Brands is that their owners spend big bucks every year to make their products register on our tiny little psyches as being culturally significant must-haves.

So on my run today I got to thinking about the power of words and how that power was intrinsically linked with culture. I am not talking about modern culture or necessarily about popular culture. But more about that sense of self and cultural identity that resides somewhere mostly inaccessible in our subconscious minds.

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