Today’s best marketers are creating cause and brand loyalty by telling storiesthat deliver a pattern of meaning for a society in need of just that. They build communities of purpose and give people an empowering sense of us. All societies have relied on core myths to guide them, and too many of ours have been stretched to the point of breaking. Our hunger for these stories explains many of the greatest marketing successes of our time and points to the enormous responsibility marketers carry as creators of modern myths. Why? Because the wars fought over stories have always been the most critical fights in shaping a society’s future.
The drama played out between Glenn Beck and Annie Leonard is part of the ancient pattern of powerful worldviews colliding. In fact, as far back as we can see, all wars have been story wars. Take your pick: the conquest of the Philistines by the Hebrews; the Crusades; the German invasion of Poland; 9/11. Countless wars have been fought over stories—stories of a people holding a unique covenant with God; a city standing on a holy rock; a master race with a destiny to rule the world for a thousand years; the heavenly delights in store for martyrs. Powerful stories have spurred millions of men and women to acts—tragic and heroic acts—that have cost them their lives and fundamentally reshaped our world. The stories of the winners carry on and continue to define our reality.
Now, I’m going to make the (I hope) safe assumption that you’re not trying to sell a war. More likely you’re trying to sell an idea, a set of values, or a product. In other words, you’re a marketer, not a military recruiter. So why all this talk of war?
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