I bloody love Haruki Murukami.
To the point when I usually get his new book as soon as it is published. Forget paperbacks, I want it now.
Over a number of years, he's built up quite a following for largely writing variations on the same them.
A lonely man with unrealised ambitions, who cooks a lot of spaghetti, has a lost love and a past he cannot reconcile, with a new, enigmatic girl in his life, meanwhile a parallel world full of possibility begins to bleed into this one. There is a lingering sense of sadness and loss of what could have been, with a coming to terms of what is and what could be.
It's never boring because there is so much invention in every page. Every book is a surprise and delight, yet it always feels like coming home.
I think brands have something to learn from this.
I've often found that 'brands as people' is too artificial, not to mention that a rigid 'essence and values' model is just too limiting, especially for a fast moving media landscape like we have today.
But I've never bought 'brands as conversations' and 'relationships', which all the data tells us is, as far as generating business growth, hogwash.
I do like the idea of brands thinking of themselves more as content creators and less as advertisers. This shouldn't be news to anyone - the best advertising has never felt like an 'ad' it has always rewarded the viewer - but it's fair to say that more and more of what we do needs to add value where it shows up and what people are looking for.
But of course, we also know that brands need to build consistent, yet distinctive. Continously interesting, yet familiar.
I venture being more like a Murukami, with a big flexible theme, rather than a tight, never to be messed with brand triangle/onion/key.
I reckon brands should think of themselves more like authors than advertisers.
You know what you'll be getting from Murukami, a Phillip Roth or even a Stephen King or Hillary Mantel.
You will be entering a familiar world in which you'll be entertained and surprised .
In fact, you enter a particular world when you're listening to Radio 4 or watching HBO.
Maybe that's what we should start asking if we were an author, what are the constants in how we tell our story. Or what is the equivalent to 'Radio 4-ness' or 'HBO-ness'.
I'm not saying that people are sitting and waiting for our stuff (and I'm a heavy Murukami buyer, most folks will have read two of his books bet). But when we do stuff that hopefully get's us noticed by folks that don't care, it needs to build up a picture, a world, over time.
If you like, boil down any Lego construction, no matter how amazing, it's made of the same simple collection of bricks.