Friday, 29 June 2012

When fact grows into myth

If I had been given €10 each time I'd heard that "Germany have never beaten Italy in a major tournament" in the last few days, I'd be a rich woman. At first, it was just being repeated parrot-fashion from one journalist to the next, but shortly before kick-off, a simple fact had metamorphised into a full-blown myth. 

Germany was under a curse, with all the attendant implication that they would never be free of it - which of course was substantiated in the 90-odd minutes that followed. And, while facts can be changed, a myth is sticky, and has implications that a higher power is somehow at play. It's out of the hands (or feet) of mere mortals.

Well-known brands also collect myths, which probably had their origins in fact somewhere. Every IKEA group discussion I have attended has always had someone remarking that "there is always a screw missing" - with a wry smile, as if this is the most original comment on earth. And everyone else nods and smiles wryly, too.

It's always helpful to know what the myths are that circulate about your brand - and some brands have been very clever in using these to their advantage in their communication - even if they appear negative at first sight. The "screw missing" myth makes IKEA fallible, human, endearing, even. 

And Marmite has used the "love it, hate it" myth as the basis for the campaign, even creating new myths around the brand, such as the slightly sinister-sounding secret society, the Marmarati.

One word of advice to the German press, though. If you really want to get behind your team, you might want to avoid an "England never win in a penalty shoot-out" situation. That's more that a myth - it's a giant millstone.

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