cover image Somewhere Yes: The Search for Belonging in a World Shaped by Branding

Somewhere Yes: The Search for Belonging in a World Shaped by Branding

Beat Baudenbacher. Fast Company, $21.95 trade paper (376p) ISBN 978-1-63908-011-

As a handbook to how brands mediate the world, this sleekly designed illustrated guide by branding agency Loyalkasper cofounder Baudenbacher never lacks for clever turns of phrase or flashes of insight. The idealistic aim to recapture the business of branding from its association with the grubby mercantilism of marketing appears genuine if self-serving (“It is not marketing that shapes humanity.... It is brands”). But Baudenbacher’s thesis, which hinges on more authentic branding possibly bringing humanity together in a fractured age, is hardly persuasive. The observations on everything from Coca-Cola versus Pepsi to QAnon are yoked into a three-part narrative: “This Is Our Water” (how the modern world swarms with brands), “Navigating the Human Zoo” (how symbols connect to the desire for meaning), and “Go Humans” (using branding to create belonging). Calling to mind a TED talk or overlong PowerPoint presentation, the book’s aesthetic aims for Marshall McLuhan boldness but registers as corporate cutesiness that a would-be truth-teller like Baudenbacher would seemingly critique. In between warnings about the dangers of distrust and social disintegration in the post-truth internet age, he lobs out declarations—like “Branding captures the spiritual essence of a thing and gives it shape”—that may be true enough but inevitably start acquiring a so-what? dimension. Both high-minded and intensely simplistic, this could end up succeeding as a gift book passed among corporate mentors, but media literacy readers will come to it with skepticism. Agent: Daniel Schloss, Loyalkaspar (July)