Aug. 30, 2012 by David Low
Jonah Sachs ’97 is the author of Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell—and Live—the Best Stories Will Rule the Future (Harvard Business Review Press). Viral storyteller and advertising expert Sachs draws upon case studies from his own body of work and some of the most successful brands of all time to show how values-driven stories can influence and revolutionize marketing. The book suggests that marketers can take on the role of heroes with the possibility of transforming not just their craft but also the enterprises they represent.
The author shares insights culled from mythology, advertising history, evolutionary biology, and psychology. His book considers how: (1) social media tools are driving a return to the oral tradition, in which stories that matter rise above the fray, (2) marketers have become today’s mythmakers, providing society with explanation, meaning, and ritual, (3) memorable stories based on timeless themes build legions of eager evangelists, (4) marketers and audiences can work together to create deeper meaning and stronger partnerships in building a better world, and (5) brands like Old Spice, “The Story of Stuff,” Nike, the Tea Party, and Occupy Wall Street created and sustained massive viral buzz.
Sachs recently contributed a story to Fortune magazine, “Winning Business Through Storytelling,” in which he says:
“Brands, and the enterprises behind them, thrive based on their ability to get people to modify their behavior by changing the way they see the world. We want our teams to perform more optimally by binding them together in shared purpose. We want to get our potential customers to behave differently and engage with us, or engage with us more deeply. So we tell them stories based on an intentional strategy — and we win.
“Building your story strategy begins by identifying ‘the moral of the story’ — the core belief your audience is living by that stands in your way. …
“Your job as a leader or brand is to introduce a new ‘moral of the story’ that is more compelling than the broken old one. Once you do, it becomes the foundation of your story strategy. Every important story you tell should point back to this insight. You’ll know it’s working when members of your team or your customers start telling their own stories with your moral at its heart. By understanding and sticking to your moral, you’ll come to stand for something distinct in the hearts and minds of your audiences. It gives your message the consistency you need to lead.”
As the co-founder and creative director of Free Range Studios, Sachs has helped hundreds of social brands and causes that transcend the media noise with memorable campaigns built on sound storytelling strategies. His work on legendary viral videos like The Meatrix and The Story of Stuff series has brought key social issues to the attention of more than 65 million viewers and his interactive work has been honored with “Best Of” awards three times at the South By Southwest interactive festival.
His work and opinions have been featured in a variety of media, such as The New York Times, NPR, The Colbert Report, and FastCompany magazine, which named him one of the 50 most influential social innovators.