Book Review: Branding With Powerful Stories

Branding With Powerful Stories: The Villians, Victims, And Heroes Model, by Greg Stone

I feel that this author is missing a huge point in his discussion and it left a bad taste in my mouth when I was reading this book and afterward. There are basically two models when it comes to motivating and encouraging people. The first model, and the most common, is that championed by the author, which divides people into villains, victims, and heroes, and is known as the “drama” cycle which demonstrates how it is that people get caught into the same negative patterns of interaction with victim tales and the blame game and people riding in as white knights to attempt to save the day. This is a negative model that represents the failures of interactions and self-awareness, and yet it is precisely this negative model that the author wants to use because of the power of labeling people as victims and certain methods as heroes and certain situations or other people as villains. The Empowerment model, on the other hand, views people as creators, coaches, and challengers, avoiding the false narratives that result when people who have agency consider themselves to be victims, and consider others as villains simply because they challenge and provoke us to be better than we are, and which expects others to save us rather than coach us so that we may better learn to take responsibility for ourselves.

This book is about 150 pages and is divided into two parts and fourteen short chapters. After a preface and acknowledgements, the first part of the book focuses on the elements of one’s “drama” story (I). First, there is a discussion of the importance of executive presence (1), then a search for the villain that can make one’s company the hero in the product or service it provides (2). There is then a discussion of the crafting of one’s message (3), and the attempt to position one’s project as if it had a heart (4), all in order to resonate with one’s customers (5), and some examples of great business strategies that follow this formula (6). The second part of the book discusses how to tell one’s story (II), with chapters on the importance of sound bytes, brevity, and rhythm (7), as well as discussion in how to compose a compelling story (8) and make one’s rhetoric stick with tips, signs, and lies (9). The author urges readers to avoid cliche (10), use body language effectively (11), handle social media (12), prevail with a tale (13), and then discusses his own tale (14), after which there are notes, a bibliography, and index.

The fact that the author apparently knows that the drama cycle is a dysfunctional model makes the whole book and its advice come off as wildly unethical. This is all the more so because the author appears to have a high view of the ethics of contemporary journalists and their activist pose, which makes the skeptical reader suspect that the writer himself is trying to snow the reader into adopting a worldview that is going to lead to drama and dysfunction, even if it provides “power” in the sense that we are motivated to hate and attack what we view as villains, even if it ultimately does not help us to live better lives if we feel ourselves trapped as victims who need government and other institutions to serve to rescue us from evildoers while absolving ourselves of blame and responsibility and denying our own agency in our lives. Perhaps the people who read this book are simply being primed to be the manipulators of others, but anyone who knows that what he is advising is in fact morally wrong and does so anyway as a way of tapping into the power of what is an evil and dark way of thinking is not someone who deserves praise, regardless of how practical it may be to exploit the misguided ways that people tend to think.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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