A Salute to Ken Kesey: A Branding Pioneer

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

2 February 2012

Ken Kesey was as unique as his novels

On hearing the news that classic novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest from Ken Kesey turned 50 this week, it meant something special.

On the grand stage, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a novel about personal change and the shattering of traditional thinking. Kesey’s novel explored, with great minutia, the overruling conventions of society (symbolized by the asylum and, to a lesser degree, the asylum’s virulent workers). The book remains both a beautiful and symbolic testament about personal change — which is just up my alley.

“It teaches us that people, like brands, should not be controlled by fear and instead should take a leap into exciting, unchartered territory.”

For brand junkies like me, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest serves as a symbol for thinking differently. It asks us to shun the status quo. It teaches us that people, like brands, should not be controlled by fear and instead should take a leap into exciting, unchartered territory.

I’m reminded of when the character Chief, in the final scene of the book, rips a massive sink from the floor and heaves it through the asylum’s windows. Chief’s throw fractured the window, thus giving him liberation. An action eerily similar to Apple’s ground-breaking 1984 commercial, yes?

Ken KeseyAs if life ever has coincidences, just one day prior to hearing the news about the book’s anniversary, I was perusing films to watch online and stumbled upon Magic Trip. As IMDB describes it, Magic Trip is “a freewheeling portrait of Ken Kesey and the Merry Prankster’s fabled road trip across America.”

In the film, Ken Kesey and his comrades sauntered across America in their psychedelically painted bus named Further. It was a joy to see that Kesey sought to live the same explorative life he wrote of and skillfully shared with us in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

And to that, on the 50th anniversary of one of America’s finest novels, I salute you, Ken Kesey. I thank you for one of the great road maps of unconventional wisdom.

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