Zen and the Case of the Blue Roses

A story about the perils of marketing overreach.

An AI-generated painting in traditional Japanese style of a lady dressed in a blue kimono, standing in a nursery with blue flowers.
A Japanese lady in a nursery. Image generated with AI by DALL-E.

A young employee came to visit a Master, and said: “Master, I need your help. There are strange things happening at our shop.”

“Aren’t you working for Master Sugawara, the florist, who is famous for his exquisite roses?”

“Yes Master,” said the student. “Master Sugawara used to grow beautiful roses. Although I am not sure that is still the case.”

“Goodness, what happened? Is Master Sugawara unwell?”

“No Master, he is in good health. However he seems to be under the spell of this new Director of Marketing, who is extremely demanding. For example she must be addressed as Your Majesty, Queen of Hearts.”

“Queen of Hearts. How peculiar,” said the Master. “And what does she expect from you?”

“To paint our roses blue, Master,” said the employee.

“Goodness, why does she want that?”

“Well, Her Majesty is very learned at marketing, Master,” said the employee. “And she says that blue is our brand colour.”

“What is a brand colour?” asked the Master.

“A colour that communicates the character and values of the company. Blue stands for Harmony, Sincerity and Compassion.”

“I see. And what happens if a customer asks for the yellow roses that Master Sugawara is famous for?”

“She will tell the customer that yellow is inconsistent with our brand values.”

The Master was silent, and the student looked at him.

“There’s no Enlightenment in this story, my Son,” said the Master. “One can only hope that Master Sugawara gets over his infatuation soon.”

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