Ponder this photo. Cool, right (if you’re on mobile and can’t see, here’s a link).
Blown up giant on a wall, without anything else, you might well enjoy looking at it, just something about it. You might even want to buy a print.
Now, sit back, I have a story to tell you…
What if I told you this dog, he lives in a little bohemian surf village on the southern-most tip of the Nicoya Penninsula in Costa Rica. His name is Chico and his owner is an old surfer named Santiago. They do everything together.
Every day for the last 10 years, at exactly 5:40am when the sun rises, Chico and Santiago walk together to the ocean’s side where Santiago paddles out into the morning surf. All the while, Chico stands at the water’s edge, watching over his dear friend, keeping vigil, waiting until he comes back. Setting the surfboard on the morning sand, they sit on the beach and watch the sun crest over the waves as Chico leans in and Santiago gently rubs his belly.
And, what if I told you that one day, about a month before this shot was taken, Santiago and Chico came to the beach to find unusually rough surf. But, Santiago, a lifetime friend of the water, gave it no concern and paddled out past the crash of the waves.
Chico, as always stood watch, but given the size of the waves, couldn’t see his old friend. Hours passed. Chico remained. But, much to the sorrow of the entire village, Santiago was lost to the ocean that day. He never returned and Chico had to be scooped up, against great resistance and brought to a dear friend of Santiago’s to stay.
Every day since, as the first light of day breaks into the sky, Chico wanders quietly, now alone, to that same spot. Steps gently into the surf and waits for the day that Santiago will come home.
This shot, it was taken on just such a morning…
Does that change the way you feel about the picture?
Here’s the interesting thing…
In the enjoyment of everything from art to business, the work, product or brand itself makes its own statement and evokes its own emotion. Without more, that can be powerful. It can provoke, engage, intrigue, inspire, conspire, devastate, elevate and move you.
But, there’s often a second layer of connection and emotion that goes untapped as a mechanism for complimentary, if not deeper emotion, inquiry and understanding.
That element is story.
When you add the power of story, an art form on its own, to already powerful imagery or sound or movement, the blended effect can become transformative. Alone, the art and story each make beautiful statements. Together, crafted and woven into a seamless experience, they often provide context, emotion and power that neither, alone, could.
When it comes to illuminating and elevating the human condition, more levers inciting inquiry and potentially lifting people higher is a good thing.
There is, of course, a secondary benefit when it comes to marketing…
The perceived value of everything from a work of art to a product, brand or even entire company can skyrocket when wrapped with a compelling story. Because now you’re not just buying art or a thing or service or brand, you’re buying the story, the lineage, the connection to a deeper set of emotion and expression.
You’re also buying relevance. The right to invite others into the experience and not just say, look at this, isn’t it beautiful, but rather, look at this, now…let me tell you a story.
You get to become not just the buyer of the thing, but the keeper of the flame.
You get to stir an emotion, give a bigger gift to others and, along the way, increase your social currency in your tribe and deepen the sense of belonging in a way the work without the story might never evoke.
And, in a world where true belonging is harder and harder to find, where more people are increasingly feeling the crush of isolation, that’s not a bad thing.
Which brings us back to the story of Santiago and Chico.
Is it true? Local legend? Conjured to make a point?
Good questions, all…
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