"... and they lived happily ever after". - Truly a fairytale-perfect beginning, isn't it?
Yes, this familiar sentence, found at the end of many fairy tales and similar stories, signals to the audience: It's over now, all is well, happy ending - and yet, from the story perspective, it is nothing more than a beginning.
Too lazy to read on? Then listen to me:
In the blogcast, I read this recent blog article to you. With emphasis, of course!
Why is that?
Because understood, grasped and comprehended are not the same thing, and comprehended does not mean transformed or even realised, and because without transformation a story is not a story at all, and without realisation it is pointless anyway, because a happy ending does not have to be happy at all, and besides ... - All right, let's take it one step at a time.
Let's start at the end, at the happy ending.
An ending to a story does not have to be a happy ending by any means for the audience to be satisfied. Take, for example, one of the most famous and popular love stories of all time: Romeo and Juliet. I'm all for the macabre, but happy doesn't even come to mind when I think of the ending - after all, they're both dead at the end. Or, as William Shakespeare would say: "For never was there a fate so bitter as that of Juliet and her Romeo".
All dead, all happy?
That's why we don't really speak of a happy ending, but rather of a fitting end . The story is fulfilled in a way that is satisfying - appropriate - for the audience, and in a tragedy this can also be tragic. If you want to laugh, please go and watch a comedy.
In the case of Romeo & Juliet, the two may be dead, but in death they are united forever. On top of that, the hostile Montague and Capulet families are finally reconciled, and they also get a monument, one made of gold. That's a fitting end and somehow even damn close to happyagain ...
Have you ever heard of the Montagues or the Capulets since then? How are they? Are they still living in Verona? Are they still friends, or are they fighting again? Unfortunately, they haven't learned anything?
That's what it's all about: What do you do with what you have learned in your story, on your hero's journey, in the course of your transformation through all the toils and plagues and through the painful purification in the catharsis? Can you apply it when you come back from your hero's journey, to your old world? Can you share what you have learned with your people so that they too can benefit from your story?
What does dear Arthur do with the sword Excalibur that made him king? Does he really accept the call and bring peace to the land as a wise king, a shining example for his people? Does he understand why Excalibur has two edges? If not, he should read this text on my blog.
What became of Melvin and Carol from "Besser geht's nicht"? Melvin learned a lot about himself and about living with others. Was he then able to apply it, after that early morning in front of the bakery, in his daily life with other people, not only in direct contact with Carol? Is he still riding the "I want to be a better man because of her" track, or has he turned back to where his image of women hung: "I imagine a man and subtract sanity and sanity." And is that why Carol is long gone?
What's going on with Anna Scott and William Thacker? I swear they still live in Notting Hill, and Anna's realisation "All the fame is nothing real. Remember, I'm just a girl standing in front of a boy asking him to love her!" has made her a better person to this day, namely the more genuine version of herself.
Story is question and answer in one.
That is what makes stories so substantially strong for our human existence: they are metaphors for the big questions of our lives, they are signposts through the countless dilemmas of everyday life. They are both questioners and answer givers for our primordial riddle called life. They are growth hormones for the better self; repeated daily use is strongly recommended.
Gained knowledge must be brought into life, otherwise all is lost, because it is similar to unused talents and unlived life: they turn into poison that contaminates you from within.
Understood, comprehended and understood are not the same thing. Transformed is the beginning, realised an infinite challenge that keeps us busy, challenged and happy until the end of our days.
A story therefore does not end with the actual solution of a task, but begins anew there, then wants to grow further in the heroine's life, grow into life, be shared.
The way back leads to the front.
The stony path back is a very essential part of every good story, even if it is too often forgotten and the narrative ends before it. After reaching the outer goal, the heroine still has the special task of bringing the elixir home. This part of the journey puts the heroine to the test again: did she really understand it or just survive the adventures? Has the inner transformation taken place, or have only the problems on the outside been solved? The test will show, the happy ending is only the beginning.
This is true for insights from the great mythologies of humanity, it is true for your personal stories, and it is also true for brand stories.
You can tell quickly and easily whether a story - or a brand story - is a real story or in fact a stun grenade that only pretends to be because it sounds super good and entertains in the best way, by whether it has the potential and the power to carry others along and not end in the end. And no matter how emotionally and captivatingly it is told, only then - and only then - is a story, a real story, namely: effective.
Real stories are moving, both figuratively and literally. Brand stories can and should be that too, not just talk about them.
Story is transformation and movement.
For who would be helped by everyone chanting "Just do it!" loudly, but everyone staying seated because they think everyone else is meant?
Who would be helped by the hymn "Think different", but when it comes to changing perspective, the flickering gaze falls into the rear view mirror and the sweaty hand checks the tight fit of the seat belt over the bulging nappy pants?
Who would be helped by hearing #glaubandich from their bank, but in fact money rules the world?
A real story is the best life insurance for every company, every brand, every organisation - yes: also for every society. It makes you resilient in the unpredictable changing times, when companies tuned to price, products and profit can be intimidated by anything and everything that does not go according to plan.
If Kodak, for example, had not been encrusted in the product of photography, but in what lies behind it - the preservation of irretrievable moments for oneself, for sharing with others and for preservation for all eternity - in other words, in Kodak Moments , the company, as the inventor of digital photography, would probably not have slept through digital photography, would not have placed its history in the tragic box, would not have followed its belief in its own technology bluntly to its doom. If Kodak had sharpened its focus on its inner story, the company would still be thriving today, especially in times of Instagram and Pinterest. And if they haven't died, they're still alive today, so to speak ...
A brand story drives everything in a company into an infinite, joyful and meaningful future: human resources & employer branding, innovation & product development, marketing & communication anyway. The brand story is what shines, drives and entices inside, where everyone feels the magic.
Every story has two stories.
We remember: every person, every brand, every story really has two stories: the outer and the inner.
You tell the outer story, you experience the inner story.
The outer story arouses interest, the inner story arouses knowledge.
The outer story is about what was, the inner story is about the truth.
This is the difference between storytelling and storysharing, between report and meaning: the outer story describes the action, the inner story moves to action. You can read more about this here.
Moving - that's exactly what it is! That is the incredible magical power of stories: they move us. Stories get people moving and people moving.
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 on the horizon. Where the happy end is not an end, but a new beginning. "Follow your bliss" is what my private saint, the wonderful Joseph Campbell, wrote for us in the logbook, and I have written some thoughts about it here in my blog.
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 is here only a short word for clearance sale because, unfortunately, it is not a happy ending.
So to all those who say: "It doesn't apply to me and it certainly doesn't apply to my brand", I would like to recommend those words with which my grandmother, old Story Dudette, opened every fairy tale lesson for the boys in her time as a babysitter for the Brothers Grimm : "No Story. No Glory.