At the Long Now Foundation

At the Long Now Foundation

Over the last few years, the collective wisdom of marketers and pretty much everyone else focuses on storytelling. Want to sell something, the wisdom goes: you gotta tell its story.

Story is part of humanity: we are hard-wired to want to take in things this way. In the context of marketing, it connects me – the consumer – emotionally to whatever is being sold. And that kind of connection, we all know, is the way to a sale.

In recent years, storytelling has become an alternative to the brand. Don’t have the money to build a brand? Oh never mind, just have a good story. A good enough story and you’ll triumph over the big boy brands.

And with that storytelling became marketing, the new packaging, a form of advertising. And I, the long time lover of stories, the storyteller, am over it, even for the little guys.

Brands were first created as shorthand a way for consumers to make fast decisions in a noisy marketplace. Heard of the brand? Buy the product. You don’t need to be engaged in really making a decision. Just choose by brand. Or today, just choose by story, the more exotic, the more high concept the better.

I know marketing is what made America great, but I propose that we should get back to working just a little harder at choosing what we buy and that instead of the story, it becomes about the product again. Let it be about intrinsic quality for a change.

Give me something wonderful. Give me something that makes my jaw drop. Give me something I haven’t seen before. Then, once I’m blown away, give me the details: where it comes from; who the maker is (particularly how long they’ve been at it, where they learned); what went into it because that helps me understand quality and longevity and whether it’s going to do something harmful to this world.

But beware: even if the product is going to save the world, if it isn’t great, you shouldn’t be buying it. Don’t even buy for the “world changing” value, if it doesn’t rock your world on its own. It’s wasteful and disrespectful to whomever has made the product. If you’re buying a product on philanthropic grounds, then consider writing a check. Not cool. Very retro. But more straightforward, I think.

Knowing the story can help give you derive greater pleasure from the product, and can help you ascribe greater value to it, but it has to start with the product.

Look carefully and then FORGET the stories. Is the product great? Is it made well? Is its design spectacular? Do you  know what is great? Do you even know what quality is? Study up. Research. Become a connoisseur. Care. It’ll slow you down, make you think, make you dig, make you develop a point of view. And in doing so, you’ll be doing yourself, and not to mention, the world, a whole lot of good.

It’s time to raise our standards and not be seduced by the story.