Thursday, November 25, 2010

Mythology and Messaging

This essay is an excerpt from a longer article on Story/Message Theory, originally published November 14, 2010. To read the original article in full, click the link. Links to other excerpts follow at the conclusion of this entry.


Hieroglyphs: By neofob
University of Chicago Divinity professor Bruce Lincoln defines myth as "ideology in narrative form."

Myths are created out of 'idealized experiences in order to influence behavior and create ritualistic practices'.

It's this practice that more closely resembles what advertisers are attempt to do with brand 'Story Building', than simply wrapping a company or product up in a narrative.

But however marketers and advertising creatives conceive Story today, it is clear that fast evolving Time Shifting, multi platform processes and the splintering, 'Attention Protective' audiences they seem to produce will force all those who trade in Story to stop assuming everyone is on the same page.

Therefore it behooves the modern storyteller to first define for themselves the meaning of Story, and then deconstruct their model until they capably arrive at their own proprietary Story Algorithm for themselves or a given venture.

It may also be that consumers don't want to play a role in a brand's Story, nor are they much interested in a brand playing a role in their own Story. What they want in a product or service is something that fulfills function, that's dependable, that works, no fuss, no muss and at a price that can't be beat. What they want in a brand relationship is sometimes no relationship at all beyond a transaction.

For many consumers, in fact, the ideal relationship with a brand resembles the same kind of transaction one might have with a prostitute. Payment for services rendered and full stop.

Quite obviously then, some marketers, faced with disinterested consumer demographics in a highly competitive market may need to develop 'Story Crashing' techniques in order to develop a consumer fan base, which they might execute by developing new ways to get people to remember something and replicate a certain behavior.

If this sounds a little like propaganda, I think bears a closer resemblance to wishful thinking. But no doubt some talented parties will find a way to make some of their wishes (or their client's) come true.


New models of communication will continue to proliferate; but the variety of communications, by and large, will not necessarily constitute new  objective based Story forms. Neither immersion in nor participation in an experience is evidence that what one is immersed in, participating in, collaborating with or otherwise experiencing, is a in fact a Story experience.

But so what; floating in a pool is an enjoyable experience, sans Story. Likewise, being a pet in a fancy home may be a purposeless life, but what a life. Great experiences don't require a Story in order to be effective as remedies from stress, or as marketing platforms.

And similarly, a roller coaster is simply a thrilling ride. Maybe a thrilling ride is all one needs to create lasting impressions, spread some happiness and convince customers to buy a souvenir and tell their friends all about the fun they had.

As with Experience, Message alone can also fulfill a communications directive. It may very well be that in an increasingly visually intelligent, 'Paste Modern', Multi Screen/Attention Deficient future, advertising is reduced to tags and hieroglyphs, and the most effective marketing messages will be composed by systems analysts collaborating with information designers and creative semioticians.

Of course, they will call themselves Storytellers, certainly, but whether you think they are or not, –and how much value you assign to their efforts– will depend entirely on how you frame the term 'Story'.

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Articles in this series:

Story/Message Theory (Original full length article)
What is a Story?
The Parable/Fable Framework as Story Algorithm
The Story/Message Theory Construct
So It Goes: Vonnegut's Law
The Power of Effective Messaging
Create Engagement with Compelling Signification
Elevator Pitch: Speed Dating Signification
Static Symbolic Accentuating Triggers
Story is Dead
Leading with Message Signification
Non Linear Cross Platform Transmedia Storytelling
Mythology and Messaging

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