Myths and Legends – How to Use Them to Create a Brand That People Adore

Let’s start with leadership symbols.

They will help you understand people and the way they behave.  

Your goal should be to create an almost mystical aura around your brand (personal and corporate).

Leadership symbols can be found in cultures worldwide, and each symbol has a unique meaning.

They represent power and are encoded in our psyche. They predate language and have been used for thousands of years.

Examples include:

  • Swords
  • Keys
  • Flags
  • Arrows
  • Rifles
  • Thrones
  • Dragons
  • Coat of Arms
  • Uniforms

Their purpose is to communicate the authority and status of the leader. 

Leaders often use symbols to project strength and power.  They are also used to rally followers around a common cause. Symbols have also been used as tools of intimidation.

Leaders use leadership symbols to communicate their authority and therefore influence the behavior of those around them.

In the business world, a prominent symbol employed by most businesses is the logo.  Other examples include color and critical design elements (uniform across all brand assets, such as websites, social media, brochures etc.).

But more than a mere logo, the entire brand becomes a symbol of success.

Leadership and Chess

A modern symbol of leadership is chess. The fundamentals of chess are strategy, concentration, and planning. The player must think several moves ahead to succeed.

This is a good metaphor for leadership because a leader needs to see the big picture and plan for success. A leader must also concentrate on the task at hand and not be distracted by side issues. 

The Hero’s Journey for Business Leaders

The Hero’s Journey is a term made famous by Joseph Campbell.    

It is the foundation of mythmaking which describes the typical journey taken by the hero (or protagonist) in various myths and movies.

Key protagonists featured in movies such as Die Hard follow the classic pattern.   

John McLane (played by Bruce Willis) was our hero; he was an ordinary man who faced obstacles and rose to the occasion to overcome them.

In his book, The Hero with A Thousand Faces, Campbell articulated his Monomyth concept.  It was then adapted to the Twelve Stage Hero’s Journey by Christopher Vogler.

Look at the image – you can see the 12 steps in all their glory.

In the context of the movie world, we might see a hero facing many foes and overcoming various obstacles to conquer his enemies and reach the summit.

Many people embark on a personal Hero’s Journey because they want a better tomorrow for themselves and their families. Relating it to the above model, they enter a Special World.

But they don’t know the pain and crap they’ll endure to reach the Summit. Maybe they don’t want to know, eh? So, they embark on the journey with ridiculously unrealistic expectations, and therefore, they often quit and abandon the dream.

It works the same for business leaders too.  

It’s about struggles and setbacks but also about the epiphanies, insights and lessons learnt along the way.  These experiences help mould a better leader who can lead people to a better place.  

Another point: this process often helps build a better brand.  After all, the leader’s personal experiences will inform how the business is presented to the world in the future.

An example is Steve Jobs.  There is little doubt that his early experiences before launching Apple informed his views about how his first major business venture would unfold.  

It’s About People – Don’t Forget It

Let’s not forget objectives.  The overriding objective should be to win people to your cause.  You have a business worth fighting for – a message you want the world to know about.  So, build your story brand to attract an ever-growing tribe of people.    

To be clear, it’s not just about attracting more customers.  It’s also about attracting the best employees and other stakeholders who buy into your brand.

Even within the business, this stuff works.  As it grows, you’ll need high-performance internal teams to bring your vision to the world.

No matter how you look at it, you’ll need people to coalesce around your brand.  

Strong Brands: Symbols of Authority and Leadership

Just as symbols from mythology and history strongly influence people’s behavior, a strong business brand becomes a new symbol.  It shows leadership for customers and employees alike.

The brand represents the values, mission and purpose of the organisation. People will coalesce around the brand if they have good reasons to do it.

The brand is more than products and transactions.  People often hunger for something beyond profit and the bottom line; they’re searching for their Holy Grail.  

The message is clear: stand for something meaningful and attract your tribe of like-minded souls.  It will bring fulfilment and satisfaction to customers and employees alike.

This is how a company such as the aforementioned Apple built a massive brand on the back of great products and an ever-growing tribe of Apple fanatics.

Mediaeval stories, movies and real-life business heroes show us that achieving success is not easy or quick.   It requires courage, persistence, and sacrifice.  It tests character and, during our darkest moments, reveals it.

But a brand that doubles down and builds for the future can handle setbacks and obstacles with aplomb.  It will reach the Summit and be feted, honoured and sometimes adored.

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