What do we buy when we buy? Often more than we need, that's for sure. Often we even buy things we don't need at all.
But above all: we never buy what we need, but always what we want. And one thing is certain: we buy what we want to be.
Too lazy to read on? Then listen to me:
In the blogcast, I read this recent blog article to you. With emphasis, of course!
But - what do we want to be? A car? A yoghurt? A pair of colourful socks? Hm ...
We definitely want to grow. That is a primal human longing. We all want to be a better, truer, more genuine version of ourselves than we are today. Or become. Or at least be seen that way.
And we become that by being part of something bigger than us, something that matters. For us and for others. Because that also gives us meaning, for others and for us.
That gives us relevance.
Do we buy relevance?
Yes! We want to be relevant. That's why we tell stories: so that we are heard, understood, relevant.
We want to be part of something that is bigger than us, and in the best case also make our contribution so that the big remains big and even becomes bigger, through us and our relevance. Because this raises our status, and we can thus also become bigger than we are now, in and through our car, in the colourful socks, with the yoghurt in our hand - mountain farmer organic, of course.
In any case, we can appear that way. We have to look like that so that it has an effect, an impact on others. Because if no one notices anything, is it even us? Is there relevance by itself, without a point of reference?
Have we really eaten breakfast before our breakfast - with ourselves as a side dish for satiety - appears on Instagram? Is there such a thing as a theoretical avocado toast?
Do we only pay with money?
With what do we pay? In any case, with our time. One way or another.
The ten euros in your hand are time - which you once had. You have exchanged your lifetime for it. And if you have exchanged well, this invested lifetime can become more - provided that you cleverly exchange the ten euros again after your basic needs are covered.
In this way, your former life time becomes present or future freedom, transforms into additional opportunities, exciting experiences, new insights, a feeling of community or gained knowledge ... in short: into an improvement of your status. And in the best case, into experienced relevance.
We pay with money, with attention, with clicks and our data, with recommendations, with ... you can twist it however you want: We pay with our time. Directly and indirectly, mostly with both.
Those who can hear and see have recognised the new paradigms of tomorrow's marketing communication that already apply today. Those who have a heart have also understood: It's all about time. Among other things, Time with Brand.
Who spends time with your brand?
Time with Brand is the true value that we as communicators must create, use, gain, fill, enliven, keep and reward. In all responsibility, because money can be earned (back) by any idiot, but the time of geniuses passes as quickly as that of morons and is irretrievably precious part of the past.
Every journey has an end, including that of heroes - in their search for infinity. Aren't we all, against our better judgement: in search of infinity, of immortality?
Woody Allen once said in an interview with Rolling Stone: "Someone once asked me if my dream was to live on in the hearts of people, and I said I would prefer to live on in my flat". Much quoted to this day - but the truth is: immortality only works through relevance and meaning. That is what can remain of us - in the hearts of people.
Does your brand have the power of an elixir?
In the hero's journey described by the famous Joseph Campbell, professor of comparative mythology, in his 1949 book " The Hero with a Thousand Faces", the hero finally receives a reward after many hardships, mental anguish, mortal dangers endured, dragons slain and a multitude of other tests passed: the elixir.
Sometimes this is actually an object, a treasure, a magic remedy or something similar, sometimes this elixir is actually an elixir. But often it is of an ideal nature, such as a special insight or the gift of love.
Sometimes the reward is given to the heroine, sometimes she simply has to take the elixir - yes: even steal it - knowing that she already paid the price for it anyway with all the sacrifices she had to make on the way here. With invested life time.
In an earthly buying process, the elixir, i.e. the reward with which the heroine returns home, symbolises the product that is bought. This product represents everything that was worth the effort up to this point, including the money that the heroine paid for it. With this product, she can now return to her familiar world transformed and proud, showing her own what she has bought and gained in status, with the expectation that her people will recognise this gain in status and in turn take the journey as well. This would then be perceived as relevant, thus relevant.
This is quite hidden with some products, absolutely obvious with others. Just think of the countless postings of buyers of a new iPhone model, of unboxing videos or pictures of the departure to an exotic destination, think of holiday videos in front of special sights, of the long-sold-out Helene Fischer concert or pictures of home-baked Christmas biscuits and the like! Think of the phenomenon of fashion itself, think of Carrie B. at Manolo B. ... O.k., Boomer!
We post what we want to be and we buy what we want to be. We don't buy products, but - at least the hope of - a lifestyle. How can you tell if someone is vegan? He tells you ...
"Man is so proud of nothing as of what he has known for two minutes," said Kurt Tucholsky, explaining the elixir in the hero's journey and the mechanics of social media in one sentence, even though he didn't know either, Tucholsky, the clever, clever dog.
Yes, the task of marketing communication has changed into meaning management, because the value of every product has long since changed from its object and its function into its meaning. Today, every company is a content company, some content can be driven with, some brings colour to the ankle, some can be spooned out of a yoghurt cup or glass - organic mountain farming, of course.
And you spend extra time with the relevant ones because they provide additional useful content. Useful content! Not surreptitious advertising, because that would not be worth our time, our Time with Brand.
Does your branded sword have two edges?
In my condensed model of the hero's journey in the HeroBranding® method, I use the image of Excalibur, the sword from the legend of King Arthur, for the reward station where the heroine receives the elixir. It seems to me to be particularly meaningful as a metaphor for the product in a brand story.
Excalibur, the first branded product ever. A product that is actually not a product at all and yet so much more. A thing, one with a (brand) name, that does exactly what a branded item does: it has two edges. On the one hand, the first-class product benefit, and we all know that Excalibur is the truly perfect sword with which to cut anything: Knights still in armour, paper, salami paper-thin, and I'm sure King Arthur sometimes used it to open a bottle of beer, and without a corner breaking out of the Excalibur blade.
And on the other hand, the second cutting edge: the emotional benefit, also symbolising the final acceptance of the call that sounded at the beginning of the hero's journey.
"Whoever pulls the sword out of the stone becomes the new king, boys!" was the announcement. The only one who finally made it, with playful ease at that, was Arthur, the outsider. And he was therefore king. Not only because of the announcement, but above all because he now realised that he was the king. That is and was his call, his vocation, and the sword Excalibur in his hand says to all, and especially to himself, that this is so: "Yes, I am the king!" I guess you can talk about relevance there, can't you?
The iPhone in my hand says to me and to everyone: I am one of the Chosen Ones, the Crazy Ones, the Misfits and Rebels - one of those who are crazy enough to believe they can change the world, and therefore do. "I have accepted the call and I am the king in the realm of Think Different."
In marketing communication, this mechanic works over and over again for one very simple reason: because it works for every single person over and over again in their personal lives, it has to work because we are wired that way. This is our operating system, the algorithm breathed into us.
The hero's journey of our lives is a string of stories in large and small episodes, of hero's journeys in an endless loop.
This is the monomyth that transcends cultures and epochs, as Joseph Campbell called it, which we have encountered in religions, myths, fables, legends, in all significant stories in every form since man set out to become Homo sapiens. What did not quite succeed, however, was the sapiens; and so today we stand as we are: not sapiens, but still narrators: Homo narrans.
Telling to be heard - being relevant.
Two cutting edges - two stories. Do you have both?
We humans are constantly re-explaining the world and life to ourselves and each other, using the same monomythical model in thousands and thousands of forms. If you look, you will find it in everything - in moving films, in a compelling novel, in powerful plays, in insightful religious metaphors, in the great moving speeches of legendary leaders, in activating brand stories, in the big and small episodes of your life.
A heroine is pushed, kicked or hurled out of her familiar world, must now overcome a myriad of factual and emotional challenges in a world unknown to her, thus dangerous for that reason alone, must, above all, jump over her own shadow and finally land where she is supposed to be: transformed into a better, truer version of herself. Rewarded with the elixir of knowledge, she finally returns to her old world, where she unfolds her relevance because she now realises what she has learned, moves her community. Or not. Then the same journey starts all over again. Keyword: "Why does Karin always fall for the same type of man?"
The elixir is hidden in a cave. You recognise this cave very quickly because you are afraid to go inside, because a dragon is sitting in front of it. Look carefully: It's not a dragon, it's a mirror. In it you see your biggest fear and the shadow it casts. Face your biggest fear ...
That fear looks like a dragon to Siegfried or Apollo Creed to Rocky. To others, like a huge stone with a sword in it, in the town square, surrounded by a mob and knights and courtiers who would rather see you dead than with your hand on that damned sword, you, you dolt from the forest, fatherless, rootless, worthless - even in your own eyes. But, "Face your biggest fear ... follow your bliss." Be king, Arthur. Be. King. Be. Arthur.
When the wise, much-praised Rabbi Hillel was on his deathbed, as the legends surrounding him tell us, he managed to return briefly from the afterlife, saying, "God asks: 'Who were you? Were you Rabbi Hillel?"
Have you been yourself? The best version of yourself that you can be? Were you Siegfried, Arthur, Hillel, Rocky, Karin? Were you you?
The sword Excalibur as a metaphor for the final acceptance of our call and as a reward for the thorny path to get here, as a symbol for the fulfilment of our task and the fulfilment we experience through it. A metaphor that is depicted in many - yes: all - forms of stories. Whether in fictional stories, whether in serious brand stories, in the history of rebellions and religions, in the history of people: their inner history.
We - whether you personally or your brand, your team, your company - have two stories. Whether you are running a business, a brand, a team, a movement or your life, you are always moving in two stories.
The first story is about what you experience, the second, the decisive one, describes what you realise. Your work is created through your first story, your second story creates an effect. Your first story shows what you succeed in, your second story shows whether you have succeeded. Your first story tells what was, in your second story your truth emerges. In your first story you have realised something that is important to you, in the second story, the one that is important to you, you have realised yourself - transformed into yourself - Karin, Arthur, Rabbi Hillel.
This is what lies behind our - all too often hidden - deep longing for relevance, which we seek, in our car, on colourful socks, at the bottom of the yoghurt pot - soy yoghurt, locally grown, of course.
That's why Excalibur - as a metaphor and as a real brand product in equal measure - has two cutting edges. With one you cut a knight, even if he is still in his armour, with the second you cut the loaf of your values so that you can share your values. Give us our daily value today.A few more thoughts on the second story, which is actually our first, I have written down here.
Shared values are the true nutritional value of a story and the daily bread in the communication of every organisation, internally and externally, whether profit or NGO. That is why storytelling alone falls far short. Only in story sharing, the sharing of our values and our truth with like-minded people, does the momentum arise - in winning like-minded people.
That's what Story does for and with us. That is why Story makes us strong - as people, as companies and brands, as a society. With the values of our story we lead our lives, we lead our teams and we lead into the future - if we find them, recognise them and share them. Every good (brand) story shows its values, for which it stands, for which you stand, visible from afar like a lighthouse.
Regardless of whether you are a global corporation, an SME or a heroic lone fighter as an EPU: every person, every brand, every company has and needs at least one archaic value and the story it activates. If you don't have a magnetic value as a living theme, there is only one other thing left: price. And price here is just a short word for reputation-acceptance denied - Excalibur remains in the stone.
So to all those who say, "It doesn't apply to me, and it certainly doesn't apply to my brand," I would urge you to listen to the words my grandmother, old Story Dudette, whispered in the ear of the wizard Merlin as he gleefully conjured a sword into a block of stone: "No Story. No Glory."
No Story. No Glory.
PS: Links to Amazon are intended as a service for your first snoop and in case you want to feed your Kindle right away. Every bookseller is happy to make a purchase and will get you any book in no time, even those in independent publishing. Sometimes you have to turn your hand over two or three times ... The extra reward for this: when you visit your favourite bookshop, there is always a lot to discover. And the very best books will find you themselves, but only if you go into their territory ...