What Do You Get When You Cross “Titanic” With “Dances With Wolves?”

The answer is you get James Cameron’s Avatar. Or Disney’s Pocahontas.

So why do these stories recur, and why do they retain their potency and appeal? The reason is simple. And incredibly powerful.

We keep buying the same stories because they reflect psychological truths hardwired into us all (as identified by Jung’s “collective unconscious”), and they are (re)told to bring these fears, dreams and desires to life.

Titanic (or Romeo and Juliet, if you prefer) “intentionally incorporates universals of human experience and emotion that are timeless and familiar because they reflect our basic emotional fabric.” So said James Cameron, and it seems to be true if you look at DVD and download sales.

It may also explain why 400 different versions of the Cinderella story were identified—in 1893! Who knows what this figure is today, but the truth is, we still connect with this story on a primal level. Whether it’s the Royal wedding or Pretty Woman, the dream is the same—It could be you….

So what’s the point of all this?

Stories are the juncture where facts and feeling meet. Which is about the best definition of “brand” I have ever seen.

We all too often define our brands with a limited vocabulary shared with our competition, ambiguous in meaning, often uninspiring and easy to change.

But successful brands tap into these powerful universal stories, and the most successful brands are the ones with the simplest brand stories. Why? Because the brand story actually tells the story of the people who buy it (to themselves and to other people).

This is why brands such as Nike are so massive. Nike could spend millions telling us about their innovative wick-away textiles or their 7-ply polyacrylamide soles. But they don’t. They weave stories based on Olympic champions and Olympian achievements. Of human endeavour and triumph. They tell us there are no limits. That we should “just do it.” We buy the story. Not the technology.

This spirit is captured in one of my favorite quotes:

“What you make people feel is more important than what you make.”

By rooting our brands into the emotional fabric of universal stories, we tap into the very souls of our customers. And once they recognize themselves in a brand, they have a good reason to engage with it. Even to love it.

We started on a question, so let’s end on one: If you are a brand, which book, fable, myth or film best personifies your story?

This entry was posted in Branding, Creativity, Marketing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.