In a challenge to brand custodians and business leaders during a forum session at Dubai Lynx 2014 called ‘Storytelling for the Greater Good’, I started a conversation on the need for corporates to work towards building brands that impact society positively, while practising a similar internal culture.
The heart of the corporate is akin to the heart of a nation, and it is India’s narratives that have built the soul of India. Storytelling has been at the heart of India’s civilisation, and these stories have been passed on through oral tradition for millennia so that subsequent generations understood the collective ethos of the land.
The ethos of the corporate has always come from a culture of gain, not giving. Advertising merely carried these stories forward in the most entertaining way. But the creative industry has been given the opportunity to develop stories that can transform brands and also inspire people to push the human race forward. Storytelling can draw attention to important issues, provide ideas for action, encourage word-of-mouth, and help us be more accepting of each other.
If we look to the meaning and craft of India’s epic tales - such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata, folk tales, ballads and scriptures - generations have been in awe of India’s stories, and these narratives have influenced how India thinks of itself as a nation, and how others also think of us as a people.
The focus for years has been on telling stories but the most enduring part of any tale is the ‘moral of the story’. It’s the reason why the story is told in the first place. To foment good behaviour and pass on values, beliefs, even survival tactics. These messages at the end of the story urge people to behave and act in a good way in every interaction. When brands have a purpose to impacting for greater good, they move from story ‘telling’ to story ‘doing’.
But the future lies in story ‘living’ - one where the ‘greater good’ is no more between the brand and the people, but belongs almost entirely to the people. The ‘good’ is carried forward and practised internally by people associated with the business as well as society. When they start becoming evangelists of the ‘good’ is when the cycle that started with ‘storytelling for the greater good’ gets completed. Technology is one of the biggest facilitators of this. Peer-to-peer transmission of stories can make each one of us in society co-creators of a brighter future.
If business leaders the world over put humaneness at the centre of their profit creation efforts, then along with technology, creativity, culture and people, brands will have the ability to write and tell new stories. Stories that can change the way we uplift each other, and lead conversations that contribute to a better future for all.
Anil S Nair, CEO and managing partner, L&K Saatchi & Saatchi