Park Howell: Developing Meaningful Brands Through Sustainable Storytelling

This morning I read a wonderful article by Harvard Business Review blogger Umair Haque about creating a meaningful life through meaningful workIn no industry is this concept more important than in marketing when the work we do as marketers seeks to promote, expand the reach, and increase the sales of products and services in the marketplace. Because the work of marketers amplifies ideas and helps to consistently spread a brand’s messaging across time and space, why not focus on seeking to promote work that matters as opposed to spending time on facilitating a process (or product) marked by mediocrity? Haque writes:

Let’s face it: on our deathbeds, the accomplishments that matter most to most of us probably won’t be recounted thus: ‘In 2012, I sold another thousand copies of someone else’s middle-of-the-road blockbuster to an overweening VP with really bad hair and worse manners at a giant monopolistic corporation that was destroying my grandkids’ futures. Man, I lived.’ So while I too sometimes feel enchanted by the seductive power of glittering fantastic excess that seems to have mesmerized my little informal sample of Manhattanites, I’d also like to challenge them — and you — to consider the questions of mattering in a slightly more sophisticated, humane, considered way.

After spending a weekend in Manhattan, Haque recounts overhearing several conversations from the “movers and shakers” of the world, and ultimately exiting those situations with an air of disgust due to lack of substance and greater purpose.  Having written such books as The New Capitalist Manifesto: Building a Disruptively Better Business and Betterness: Economics for Humans, Haque refers to the current cause of our recession as more of a “depression of human potential” and less an issue of macroeconomics. So how can we as marketers help turn things around?

Enter: Park Howell

Recently I came across a mid-sized marketing agency in Phoenix (a blog I subscribe to via my RSS feed) that exemplifies this ideal that Haque is promoting from the standpoint of sustainable storytelling. Park&Co (yes, no spaces!) exists to “ignite the growth of people, products, companies and causes that dare to make the world around us better.” Below is a short video about Park&Co:

As the video evidences, Howell creates a culture that breeds productivity, creativity, and actions among his employees that make a difference. He notes that innovation and good ideas are key: finding opportunity in adversity is their focus. Campaigns the agency has worked on range from the “Water-Use it Wisely” cause on behalf of such sponsors as the City of Phoenix and the City of Mesa; “Bring Back Blue” for the Maricopa County air quality department; and “Sustainable Healthcare” for Adelante Healthcare. In addition to creating sustainable marketing plans for companies that matter, Park and Company dedicates time to such non-profit agencies as Goodwill of Central Arizona and Habitat for Humanity.

The Nine Elements of Sustainable Storytelling

According to Howell, below are the nine essential beats that make up the structure of every great story.

  1. Who’s your hero?
  2. What’s at stake?
  3. The inciting incident.
  4. Obstacles & antagonists.
  5. The sidekick and/or love story.
  6. All is lost.
  7. Victory!
  8. Anchor your audience.
  9. To be continued… (Your sequel)

For a better understanding of the above-referenced points, you can watch the video summary of Howell’s 2011 presentation to 3,500 entrepreneurs from more than 140 countries given at Forever Living Products’ annual International Super Rally in Washington D.C.

Now it’s your turn: what are some of the ways your company or agency is making a meaningful difference through its marketing efforts? How do you plan to create meaningful change to create a more meaningful living for yourself and others?

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