for all x, x is a brand

Assuming the argument set forth in McGinn (2001) is sound, analytic philosophers have a robust sense of humor. I flatter myself, therefore, to think that my time spent on “Weird Twitter” (as it is called by Judson (2013)) is not wholly wasted. Indeed, this morning I found great pleasure in reading the following tweet (Hendren 2014), which I will not reproduce here in full due to considerations of taste:

i love to wake up every morning and engage with my favorite #brands online!!!!!!!! […]

Here Mr. Hendren is prima facie using “#brands” to refer to companies, or at least the social media manager of a company’s Twitter account. Perhaps this is an example of the phenomena of non-literal speech, which has been shown by Kent Bach and others to be widespread. Just as I can use “@fart” to refer to Jon Hendren, I can use “#brands” to refer to companies.

But I would like to suggest an alternative reading of the situation. First, I want to suggest that companies are identical to their brands. Second, if we have brands—and I think there is ample evidence that we do—then we are identical to our brands. Third and finally, since (pace van Inwagen) there is no metaphysically relevant difference between people, companies, and other objects, everything has a brand and is in fact identical to its brand.

You might be inclined to reject this proposal outright. After all, there’s an intuitive difference between the recommendation of a life trainer to “develop yourself” and that of a marketing consulting to “develop your personal brand”. However, I think the work of Professor Jeff Jarvis has undermined this intuition for many of us. That fact, coupled with the drastically simpler ontology that would result from denying that instead of one there are two things (an object and its brand) in any given spatio-temporal location, leaves the burden of proof on the “two-thinger” to convince us that brands are distinct from their objects.


(This is an excerpt from When Brands Go Branding: An Essay in Metaphysics, forthcoming from Oxford University Press)

 
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