Telling Mythsby Nayelli Gonzalez on June 9, 2012
One of the most interesting sessions I attended while at Sustainable Brands this week was Jonah Sachs’ talk on telling stories — or telling myths, to be exact. Sachs, Co-Founder and Creative Director of Free Range Studios, shared what he thinks (and has seen) makes a good story, and he gave the audience a preview of his soon-to-be-published book, titled Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell – and Live – the Best Stories will Rule the Future.
As the book’s title suggests, telling really good stories is the key to a sustainable future. Why? Because telling mythical stories is what got us into this global cycle of mass production, over-consumption and unsustainable growth — and it’s what can get us out of it, too.
When the Marlboro Man first appeared in 1954, his rugged, masculine features convinced even the manliest of men that smoking filtered cigarettes was not feminine, even though that brand was originally introduced as a woman’s cigarette. As we all know, the Marlboro Man became an iconic figure in popular culture — all through the power of branding and storytelling. It’s this type of storytelling and myth building, Sachs argues, that we need to win consumers’ hearts of minds to make more sustainable choices.
From Inadequacy Marketing to Empowerment Marketing
Think about every product you’ve purchased in the past week — why did you buy it? During his talk, Sachs explained that most marketing preys on people’s insecurities: fear, vanity, greed, and status consciousness. This way, brands position the consumer as a “damsel in distress” and their product as the “hero.” Do you need whiter teeth so people can like you more? Don’t worry, our product can help you with that. Want to show people what a great parent you are? Buy this product and show how much you care about your kids. That, my friend, is inadequacy marketing.
What Sachs says will help guide consumers to make more sustainable decisions is a sense of empowerment (and not fear, etc). Instead of the brand being the “hero,” sustainability marketing should make the consumer the hero — and the brand the “mentor” that can get the hero moving to their ultimate goal.
Just as Yoda guided Luke Skywalker with Yoda-isms throughout Luke’s heroes journey in the film Star Wars, brands can also help guide consumers toward a more sustainable life through “brand gift-giving.” Great brands are mentors that give gifts, intangible or not, such as TOMS shoes 1-to-1 gift model (and the warm feeling you get knowing that your purchase is putting shoes on kids feet).
For brands to be truly sustainable, and inspire sustainable action, they must create stories with compelling characters on mythical journeys. When brands do this, they will win the battle to be heard in our age of abundant noise — and possibly even save the world.
Image Source: Winning the Story Wars