Follow your bliss: branding is storytelling as an archetype

Heinrich Zimmer was a man with a mission.  You don’t need a guru, he said, you need to find an archetypal myth that applies to your situation and live it through.  His knowledge of Hindu mythology allowed him to interpret works of art through archetypes.  Very Jung-like of him and he greatly influenced my favourite thinker on the subject, Joseph Campbell.

It is a fairly straightforward theory: any story can be categorized in a specific archetypal myth.   A myth that is told and retold since the beginning of human storytelling.  Any journey, be it Lord of the Rings or Rocky IV, has twelve stages.  Ordinary World, Call to Adventure, Refusal of the Call, Meeting with the Mentor and so on.  Much like Jung in “Man and his symbols” demonstrated that signs from the swastika to a snake eating it’s tail have followed homo sapiens from his very beginning.  (Great inspiration for logos!)  You can pick a fight with Jung’s last work easily.  Is a lion the same potent symbol today as it was back when I really did fear getting eaten by one daily?  A dragon now that we now all about dinosaurs?  Any symbol in a technologically advanced world which throws any image around the internet and on TV at a breakneck speed?

But you can’t argue with mythological archetypes.  Why?  Because what makes us human is the search for meaning.  Arguably without that, there are no emotions.  And without emotions, there is no marketing.  So, like Zimmer, I say “don’t look for brand gurus”. Follow your bliss and find the myth that applies to your brand.  And the stage it is at.  Start up?  You have seen it a thousand times in those films where a young person suddenly gets thrown into a big adventure.  It seems impossible at first, daunting.  But we learn about his pedigree.  (Good excuse for our brand’s origins.)  Then he finds allies (other companies we are working with) or mentors (brand endorsers).  We are routing for him.  Then we learn about his nemesis.  You can make it specific (“we hate Microsoft” seems to be popular!) or generic “untidy offices drive me mad!”

Myth provides a safe, reliable route to follow.  One that consumers can relate to.  Because the biggest enemy of brand building is incongruity.  Our brains just can’t handle information that seems to make no sense.  Just like in film making or book writing, just because you are following an archetype, doesn’t mean you can’t embelish it, or decide where to place emphasis.  But using well known symbols gives the larger than life effect every brand needs to gain mind share.

Straightfoward stuff.  Now my teaser question: who do you want telling your story?

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