In the last edition of MISC magazine I read the article by Paul Isakson on “ Truth, Beauty and Transformation” as the central themes for brand stories. I agree with Paul that these are essential elements of story but I gravitate to three components of story that could be even closer to the center of every story. My three forces in story center around Choice, Freedom and Happiness. These themes seem to reoccur across culture and continental boarders.
Wherever you look you see stories of choice or the lack of choice. As with each of my three there are positive and negative stories to be told. A brand may use these stories as part of positioning urging the consumer to advocate for change. Counties use these stories to define and maintain society norms reinforcing the way counties and society choose to live. Choice or the lack of it is the literary equivalent of tension. Without tension there is no story worth telling or listening to and here choice becomes the tension.
These have been told everywhere as part of our ambition and drive for life. Freedom is split into two aspects. Freedom to and freedom from. This is well explained in the great book by SHEENA IYENGAR in “THE ART OF CHOOSING”. So essential are these that few stories do not have some aspect of freedom woven into the meaning of the story. From Mandela to the Olympics (especially Para Olympics) or the Landrover brand. Freedom is a central theme. Countries also use these stories as part of their culture. It’s central like choice because of our humans aspiration to improve and advance.
Finally there are stories of happiness. Building on the other two story themes we seem to be programmed to seek happiness. Maybe this is based on long-term happiness subthemes like love, family, wealth and security or the type of enlightened happiness that come from doing good and all that stems from giving. Happiness stories could equally come from shorter-term subtopics like sports, food and films. Call it fulfillment or Maslovian self actualization but many of our actions play this story willing us to seek out these forms of happiness.
Of the three themes there appears to be a hierarchy with choice leading to freedom and freedom leading to happiness. For brands these are essential customer experiences that need to be understood by marketers, advertisers and consumers alike.