woman holding brand myth in her hands

Your Brand is a MYTH
[4 insights from Sapiens to create a powerful one]

Marketing Principles for Brand

What is a brand?

In Yuval Noah Harari’s fascinating book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, he explains why our species, Homo Sapiens, has been able to thrive while others, including at least 5 other species of humans such as Neanderthals and Homo erectus, did not. In short, we’ve learned to gather support for common causes by creating inter-subjective reality. This reality includes things which don’t appear in the natural world, but are believed to be true by many people.

These things, including countries, companies and religions are actually myths. Even the most patriotic American would have a tough time holding the ‘USA’ in her hand. As much as it seems uncomfortable to admit, the USA is a myth.

A brand exists in inter-subjective reality of those who are aware of it as one of these myths.


What makes a good (brand) myth?

Yes, your brand is a myth and that’s actually a good thing. As Harari explains, myths mean “sapiens can cooperate in flexible ways with countless numbers of strangers. That’s why we rule the world, whereas ants eat our leftovers.”

Your goal as a brand builder is to create a trusted, powerful myth that connects countless numbers of strangers.



1. Live it

“How do you cause people to believe in an imagined order such as Christianity, democracy or capitalism? First, you never admit that the order is imagined.”
– Y. Harari, Sapiens

If your myth is worth believing in, then you should be the first one in line. 

glossier founder emily weiss

Glossier Founder Emily Weiss started by writing the blog ‘Into the Gloss’ 4 years before she launched the company. She brought beauty habits of the stars to the masses then created beauty products that did the same. In her words she “Got pregnant with Glossier. Incubated. Gave birth to four beautiful products.”

How do you reflect your brand’s myth? How does your brand myth affect your view of the world?



2. Be Distinct and Unique

“In order to change an existing imagined order, we must first believe in an alternative imagined order.” – Y. Harari, Sapiens

In a world of nearly unlimited choice and limited mental capacity, your myth is going to need to displace another myth in someone’s mind. The first step is clearly describing what your perspective is on the world. 

One of Patagonia’s core values is to ‘Use business to protect nature’. For Black Friday, instead of following the retail industry, they donated 100% of their profits ($10M+) to grassroots environmental groups protecting vital natural resources. They have many initiatives which support the planet’s sustainable health.

How is your myth unique? How do you take your myth into account in your actions? Why is that better than what someone is believing in now?



3. Connect with your Higher Purpose

“You always insist that the order (myth) sustaining society is an objective reality created by the great gods or by the laws of nature.” – Y. Harari, Sapiens

While you don’t have to take creation by the gods literally in regards to your brand myth, it is important to understand why your myth is so important and how it connects to other established myths.

impossible foods on a mission

Impossible Food’s mission is to save meat and earth. Their belief is that “using animals to make meat is a prehistoric and destructive technology”. They reinforce it with research studies, videos of astronauts and of course their collection of meatless products.

Have you defined your myth’s higher purpose? What proof do you have that your myth is worth believing in? What would be the impact of believing the myth?



4. Create a Shared Understanding

“Two Serbs who have never met might risk their lives to save one another because both believe in the existence of the Serbian nation, the Serbian homeland and the Serbian flag.”

– Y. Harari, Sapiens

Myths are heuristics that allow people to know things about a stranger without having them explained.

palau giant

The country of Palau created the Palau Pledge to create a shared understanding of what is expected from tourists. Their video The Giant, which is shown on every flight to Palau, shows children teaching a giant how to “take care of their island paradise”. Palau combines this with a pledge stamp in everyone’s passport which they have to sign. The Pledge attracts tourists who are aligned with its principles, with 7-10% of tourists saying they’ve been motivated to visit as a result of the pledge.

If someone is believing your myth, what does that say about her? When two believers in your myth meet each other, what do they instinctively know about the other?

To conclude, a good myth is powerful.

So yes, your brand will be a myth if you create and communicate a powerful one that is shared by countless numbers of strangers.

Airbnb’s myth is to “create a world where anyone can belong anywhere.” The 150M+ believers changed their opinion of staying in a stranger’s home from crazy and dangerous to adventurous and fun. They have a shared understanding that they value traveling and experiences. The myth makes people who have never met trust each other with the unsupervised usage of their home even more than they would long-time acquaintances or friends. 

Brand myths should not be underestimated. As a final piece of wisdom from Sapiens, remember

“even what people take to be their most personal desires are usually programmed by the imagined order.”

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