Winter is coming, my precious, and the face of storytelling has changed.
I’m a Game of Thrones junkie. I’ve seen all the Lord of the Rings movies multiple times. I dabble in role playing games like Skyrim and Dragon Age. I suppose my love of a good story carries over to both my professional life and my, well, nerdy personal life.
And while I could go on and on about who I think should sit on the Iron Throne, or my level 21 mage, I’d like to focus on the shift in storytelling, one that’s moved us from the simple “hero’s journey” to stories that are much grander, and much more complex. Because stories that evolve over time and understand the motivations of many are what lead to an exciting climax.
A friend of mine, Ryan Stephens, wrote a piece a while back on why we love Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings.
“The popularity of Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings shows this conceptual development is not only among writers, but society as a whole. We traditionally identify with the hero, equating them (and their values) with ourselves (and values we wish we had). But stories today show a different truth – we are cognizant that the world is full of diverse people motivated by individual goals and influencing the world in different ways. We are able to comprehend this complexity that was either simplified or ignored in the past. Characters are no longer simple facades of a single desire and manifestations of lust, envy, honor, or greed. They are cultured, complex entities that change over time following experiences in the story. Our intellectual growth yearns for stories that describe the world, or imaginary worlds, in the terms that we understand: a complex web of individual agents.”
Branding, in its simplest form, is rooted in storytelling. Just as we’ve evolved from the story of a single hero with a simple motivation like Odysseus in The Odyssey, we’ve become much more adept in resonating and supporting brands that change over time as they’re affected by experiences in their own story.
Your favorite company shifts to a new product line to meet demand. A brand you know and love takes on a new identity to embrace its maturing market. Your favorite childhood TV show gets a reboot on Netflix.
The hero of your story.
Like a good character in your favorite story, brands are living, breathing, human-backed entities. Motivations shift. Experiences impact trajectory. Kings get poisoned at their own wedding (metaphorically speaking, of course). And you have to roll with the punches.
If there’s a takeaway here, it’s that you shouldn’t be afraid to introduce multiple characters (or ideas) into your brand’s narrative. And maybe most importantly, while your motivations and mission should be clear, it’s very possible that they will evolve over time.
As long as your message is clear and compelling, your customers, supporters, fans, and followers can (and will) keep up. Stories continue because our ability to receive and relate to more complex, constantly adapting messages has grown.
Be it the Shire, Winterfell, or wherever your brand calls home, invite your audience to be a part of the ever-evolving momentum of the story you tell.