The following is an excerpt from a scene between Walt Disney and Pamela Travers in the film Saving Mr. Banks:
“Give her to me, Mrs. Travers. Trust
me with your precious Mary Poppins.
I won’t disappoint you. I swear
that every time a person goes into
a movie house—from Leicester to
St Louis, they will see George
Banks being saved. They will love
him and his kids, they will weep
for his cares, and wring their
hands when he loses his job. And
when he flies that kite, oh! They
will rejoice, they will sing. In
every movie house, all over the
world, in the eyes and the hearts
of my kids, and other kids and
their mothers and fathers for
generations to come, George Banks
will be honoured. George Banks will
be redeemed. George Banks and all
he stands for will be saved.
Maybe not in life, but in
imagination. Because that’s what we
storytellers do. We restore order
with imagination. We instill hope
again and again and again. Trust
me, Mrs. Travers.”
If you haven’t seen the film Saving Mr. Banks, I highly recommend that you do, particularly if you want to understand the storyteller archetype. Pamela Travers (the author of Mary Poppins) and Walt Disney both had difficult childhoods. And one way that each of them coped with those painful memories was by creating alternative stories that did not deny the challenges but focused on healing, reinventing, and recreating their own stories. Mr. Disney chose to remember a harsh father in a way that was kind rather than to view himself as the victim. Mrs. Travers created Mary Poppins to redeem a father whom she could not save from alcoholism. Thus, the nature of the storyteller archetype is to liberate us from a personal narrative that no longer serves us.
Storytellers have been part of every culture since the beginning of time. They can relay wisdom or foolishness. They inspire, reinvent, and redeem their subject matter. Storytellers are more than playwrights or authors, although they possess the storyteller archetype. They can be politicians (Abraham Lincoln was known for his storytelling), lawyers, comedians, teachers, philosophers, actors, directors, songwriters, poets, and marketing directors.
How do you know if you have this archetype?
At show-and-tell when you were a kid, did you like to tell more than show? Did you get lost in a good book and then need to tell a story about the story? Can you tell a story and keep an audience captivated? Then you may have the storyteller archetype.
How do you use this archetype as part of your brand?
Well, if you have this archetype, you will be sought by companies and employers because “storytelling” is all the rage in marketing and branding. As human beings, we learn through stories, and if you can tell a brand’s story or your own, then you will find others who will follow you. Now allow me to clarify the story. I am not saying that you should market your “wounds”; we all have them, but like Mr. Disney and Mrs. Travers, you can market the lesson learned from the wound. Again, storytellers give hope and reinvent themselves. And this is the story you need to tell.
How do you market to this archetype?
You will need a good story. You need to tell the story of your company’s values and why it has those values. You need to tell the story of how your products will work to redeem, inspire, or reinvent the consumer. Cosmetic companies rock this type of marketing—look at the Dove commercials and their social media campaign. If you are not into cosmetics, look at Ford truck commercials because they tell the story of the hero’s journey better than anyone does on the Internet. There is something about redemption and reinvention that inspires us.
How do you interact/lead/manage this archetype?
With patience. They are going to want to tell you a story, which is great because unless you are completely daft, you will understand exactly how they feel, what they value, and what they need. However, you do need to listen carefully. Had the staff at Disney listened to Mrs. Travers, they may have spared themselves some grief when trying to deal with her.
By Diane Bertolin