Are You Using Mythology in Your Marketing?

Written By Dave Lavinsky
white horse with wings

I love reading great stories in business books.

I just came across this one from Exploiting Chaos by Jeremy Gutsche.

It refers to the fact that Procter & Gamble was failing miserably in Japan and had lost hundreds of millions of dollars. But then things turned around when it launched an incredibly profitable advertising campaign for SK-II, a premium skin cream.

Here’s the storyline of the ads:

“The fascinating story behind SK-II began at a sake brewery in Japan, where scientists noticed the elderly workers had wrinkled faces, but extraordinarily soft and youthful hands. These hands were in constant contact with the sake fermentation process. It took years of research for scientists to isolate the miracle ingredient Pitera(r), a naturally occurring liquid from the yeast fermentation process.”

Based on this advertising campaign, SK-II became an enormously successful product, generating $150 million in sales by 1999.

Some people use the terms “advertising mythology” or “brand mythology” when discussing this type of marketing.

In his book PRIMAL BRANDING: Create Zealots for Your Brand, Your Company, and Your Future, author Patrick Hanlon found 7 ways in which companies can incorporate this mythology into their businesses (these ways are summarized in my blog post here).

One of the key ways to incorporate mythology, which is both supported by the skin cream example above and Hanlon’s book, is to use it in your company’s creation story.

In the skin cream, the product creation was based on the sake brewery story. For Pierre Omidyar, the founder of Ebay, the founding story (which allowed the company to get tons of PR) was that Omidyar accidentally created Ebay when trying to create a small trading website for his girlfriend who collected Pez dispensers.

Interestingly enough, in Carol Roth’s book, The Entrepreneur Equation, she cites that this and other founding stories (like the YouTube founding myth that the founders were trying unsuccessfully to upload video footage from a dinner party), were later proven to be made up.

Now, while I’m not a big fan of making up creation stories for either products or companies, you should be able to see how powerful they are. Better yet, you can often stretch the truth as Hollywood does all the time in movies that are “based on true events.”

So think about how you conceived your company or your products/services. And then think about how you can weave that into a story that will attract customers, media/PR, partners, investors, etc.


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