Apple as a Creation Myth

In my last post, I talked about genres in fiction, and how archetypal stories affect the way we respond to different brands. Apple, the world’s biggest brand, tells a classic creation myth.

The Norse god Odin created earth, sky and humanity; Yaweh in Genesis light from darkness; the Greek goddess Eurynome order from chaos. In these and hundreds of other creation myths, human beings have found meaning and a context for their lives and stories.

Sounds like Apple, doesn’t it? The company made a new world–inspired by first-movers Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs—and populated it with never-before-seen devices and passionate believers.

Apple worship isn’t blind–far from it. Students, educators, scientists, business owners, artists and other users love Apple’s cool design; but it’s the story behind the products that engages and enthralls them. It’s a story of creativity, innovation, and possibility.

And like all powerful stories, brand or otherwise, Apple’s evolves as each person makes it their own.

Filmmakers pushing artistic boundaries. Graphic designers and writers crafting incredibly creative media and messages. Software developers creating applications that change the way we work, play and communicate.

Then there’s the father who recounts a trip to the Apple Store with his wife and their ten-year-old daughter, who’s saved enough allowance and babysitting money to buy an iPhone Touch. They discover the store is closed for the next hour. But the manager, touched by the girl and her mason jar of coins and bills, opens the doors for her.

Or my own father, a public school teacher, who started the first computer lab in the Monterey County School district in the 1980s, equipping it with Macintosh computers.   It wasn’t only a classroom. It was the place to be at recess and after school.

Those kids, now in college, took these memories with them. At my dad’s memorial service last year, a former student told a story about being in the computer lab and listening to Miles Davis playing softly in the background while the class clicked away at their keyboards. He recalled the black-and-white posters of Amelia Earhart, Winston Churchill, Martha Graham, and innovators from Apple’s famous ad campaign. And talked about how Mr. Doyle had made him a better student and person.

Then there’s the small business owner who uses an iPad, iPhone, and iCloud to develop and market other products and services that will help customers create still more narratives of business and personal success.

Odin created earth and sky, inspiring the  great human narrative and the infinitely complex web of stories around it.  The myth of Apple promises the same.




Filed under Branding, Story, Storytelling and tagged , , , , , , .

What Don Draper Has to Teach Small Business Marketers

In the first season of “Mad Men,” Don Draper, the creative director at Sterling Cooper, the New York advertising agency at the heart of the TV series; is asked to present to Kodak, a new client.

It’s 1962 and Kodak has just come out with a new slide projector. The product’s main feature is a circular tray or “wheel” with slots for storing and organizing slides. (You remember it, don’t you?)

Kodak’s marketing people have charged Don and his team to come up with a creative concept based on the new “high-tech” main feature. (Unlike the straight slide tray, the new wheel tray will hold slides if dropped.)

Draper mulls over ideas for several days.  He’s going through an emotional ringer in his personal life and feeling pretty raw. Out of this emotion Draper hits on a brilliant concept: The Carousel Slide Projector.

Brilliant concepts are nothing new for Draper.  But this one is more evocative than most.

During the client pitch, Draper explains that a carousel—unlike a mere wheel or round metal tray—lets us experience memories as a child would—round and round and backwards and forwards.  With an undercurrent of emotion typical of Draper’s character, he runs the Kodak folks through a slide show of images of Draper himself with his wife and children. It’s a nostalgic moment. The client is thoroughly moved and give the concept the thumbs up.  (Watch Draper’s Kodak Carousel’s slide show here.)

Draper’s idea is strictly fiction (Although I couldn’t find the details, I suspect the real story is far less compelling).  Still, it shows us what’s required to conceive and craft a meaningful story that will compel customers to engage with our brands and products.

1.     Feelings are a bridge to creativity and narratives customers will connect with.

2.     Evocative words are the building blocks of a powerful brand story. One carefully chosen word or image (“carousel” vs. “wheel,” for example) can provide a novel’s worth of feeling.

3.     A brand story should communicate the product benefit in an emotionally engaging way.

4.    Story is the context or framework, features and benefits part of the narrative.

When I work with clients on crafting their brand story, the process is both linear and non-linear.  It requires not knowing what problem they’re solving, and how–i.e. the features and their benefits–but also nailing the feeling the product “experience” evokes for the customer.

Filed under Creative marketing programs, Story, Storytelling and tagged , , , , .
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