What Are Myths?
Myth – such a famous word yet so grossly misunderstood. Whenever we call something a myth it is automatically assumed that the statement or the story behind it is false or hearsay at best. You might be surprised to know that the word myth comes from the Greek word mythos which means a story. And as we all know a story can be true, fictional, or a combination of both. It depends on who is telling it.
Such is the negative history attached to the word myth that it has become synonymous with urban legends or whimsies of roaming storytellers and bards. Whether they’re ultimately true or not, we can’t however deny the power of myths. These so-called fictional tales are one of the few things that are naturally passed on by humans from generation to generation. This passing-on can be in the form of rituals or traditions which can be religious, cultural, a combination of both, or something else entirely. Myths are the means through which the knowledge of one generation is communicated to the next one.
Why Are Myths Important?
It is through rituals like worshipping stone idols, visiting temples, as well as the plethora of stories of the Indian gods that Hinduism has managed to survive for more than five millennia. Egyptian mythology continues to exist even after the ultimate demise of the civilization. The stories of the mighty pharaohs and the humongous pyramids that stand as proof of those tales are responsible for keeping names like Tutankhamun and Ramesses alive in the public consciousness. The two biggest religions of the world -Judaism and Christianity- still stand on the foundation of that one promise that Abraham’s god made to his followers. No country, religion, or tribe in this world is untouched by the power of myths for these tales are the magic that entices children and gives hope to adults.
Can Mythology Be Used for Other Things?
The question is are myths only useful for enchanting humans with farfetched tales or is there a greater purpose behind them? Stories as you know are the bedrocks on which the existence of humanity exists. Afterall it is through them that we know where we are coming from and where we might end up. Whether it is our mother’s lullabies, the horror stories recited by our grandparents, or the legend of the hero our father tells us to instill bravery and determination in us; it is through them that we become the men and women we are today.
Why else do you think people spend time and money on movies, reading books, and watching extravagant Broadway shows? Historically myths have been used to instill a basic idea in the minds of its listeners or to inculcate a habit whether good or bad. However, in my humble opinion myths can be used for much more including product marketing and corporate branding. After all what are advertisements if not stories that we tell our customers to make our product memorable and appealing? The better the story we weave, better is the brand recall and more well-known our product or service.
Myths & Advertising
Marketing is changing and the 7 P’s of Marketing are constantly evolving. Ask yourself this. When you buy an iPhone or a Cartier bangle are you really buying it for the utility of the product itself or for the story that the underlying brand carries with it. When you buy a luxury product like these it is not only a high-quality product that you’re buying but also the bragging rights that come with it.
This is the intangible story that needs to be as strong and well-established as the actual product’s technical prowess. There are many products and services that do not have a high utility for the consumer but because of the enigma they have created in the minds of their customers they are some of the most formidable brands of the world.
Take Coca Cola for example. Everyone knows consuming a drink that has such high sugar content is not healthy; still people flock to supermarkets and malls to drink coke and other colas. Coca Cola and its competitor Pepsi are two of the top brands of this world. Why?
The Story Behind a Brand
The engaging story and the anecdotes attached to a brand is what makes it famous and appealing to the customers. Why else would millions of consumers around the world buy Gucci bags instead of normal leather bags, or drink Starbucks instead of a normal coffee?
Myths are not only attractive but are also the most useful tool to make your brand unforgettable. Old Spice created a persona of a macho man to make its customers believe that using Old Spice will make them more macho than they already were. The kind of story you end up choosing of course depends on your target segment, but there are no two ways to the statement that myths can be used to make your brand not only memorable but ahistorical.
Don’t be confused. It’s not a typo. Historical pertains to something that is a part of history. Ahistorical is however something that is beyond history; a quality or trait that is above history and hence does not change with it.
Using Mythology to Make Your Brand Memorable
Keeping all this in mind, following are the ways through which you can use Mythology in marketing and branding.
- First of all, you need to create a story around your brand. A story that is uniquely yours but is also relevant to the users. The easiest way of doing this is to connect your product to a ritual or tradition that your users already know or are familiar with. Paperboat is a brand that would be just any juice brand if it hadn’t played on the nostalgia of the Indian consumers. They created a story around the stories of childhood we have grown with and became a highly recognizable brand.
- After creating your brand’s story, you need to take that story to your customers. And for that you need to entice and enchant them. This is normally done with advertisements but with the advent of the digital age many non-conventional methods like social media, viral video marketing, and artificial intelligence have come up.
- Most importantly and where many brands lose this battle of myths is when they invariably approach different geographies and markets. The key to moving to new markets is to never change yourself because of your customers. If a pharaoh comes to India, he will not start calling himself Shahenshah or Maharaja just to relate to his subjects. If a brand changes itself for a new geographical market, it means that the original brand story wasn’t attractive or powerful enough. So, keep your story straight and consistent. That’s how the myth will evolve naturally and spread organically.
- Finally, you need to make sure that your product or service fulfills your audience’s expectations. The stories can do only so much. However good the brand identity is, in the end, your product has to play its part. Not necessarily the divine or fictional angle that you have played but the basic utilitarian purpose the consumer needs it to play. The myth will of course play its part in creating exclusivity for your brand and giving a feeling to the customer that they’re a part of an elite club. But the physical purpose has to be fulfilled without fail.
Think of Walt Disney. Whenever you hear the word Disney you know what kind of a product or service you can expect. The extent to which Disney or similar brands go to maintain their brand image is mind-boggling. So, maintain your brand identity and avoid attachment of any negative connotation with your product. Remember, Maggi stopped its operations for several months during the lead debacle and only came back when they had proved without question that their product didn’t have any harmful additives. This is the commitment organizations need to have to preserve their brand identity because that’s how you get the results you are expecting.