Ancient Egyptians and Brand Narratives: A Tale As Old As Civilisation Itself
Stories have been an integral part of the human experience for as long as we have possessed the ability to speak. Some scientists speculate that the initial development of what we now know as speech and language began with Homo Erectus some 1.8 million years ago.
While the origins of speech and language are a topic of surprisingly hot debate in the ever-growing scientific community, the impact of it is evident for us all to see.
The Pharaohs of ancient Egypt, the god-kings of the Nile Valley civilisation, used their stories to build a society and culture that spanned thousands of years. That nation, the first nation in humanity’s existence, left an indelible mark on the world still felt today.
You might be wondering how the Egyptians did that. Or, maybe you weren’t, but I am going to tell you anyway.
Egyptian mythology was replete with stories of gods, goddesses, and supernatural events. These tales explained natural phenomena, the world’s creation, and the universe’s order. By tying the Pharaoh’s role to these myths, the rulers solidified their divine right to rule.
Pharaohs often commissioned stories, inscriptions, and monuments that depicted them as powerful, divine rulers chosen by the gods– this was a way to legitimise their rule, deter potential challengers, and emphasise their vital role in maintaining ma’at (cosmic order and balance).
Moral and Social Framework:
Stories, especially those inscribed in wisdom literature, provided appropriate behaviour, social norms, and ethics guidelines. They offered insights into the rewards of a righteous life and the perils of immoral behaviour.
Stories helped to foster a shared identity among the Egyptians. Common tales, beliefs, and cultural practices bound the people together and distinguished them from neighbouring cultures.
Tales and narratives were essential tools for instruction. Whether in formal education for scribes or moral tales told to children, stories were a primary method of transmitting knowledge.
The stories, inscriptions, and hieroglyphs on tombs and monuments served to commemorate the deeds of the deceased, ensuring their names would live on. This memorialisation reflected the Egyptian belief in the power of the name and its connection to the afterlife.
Apart from their religious, political, and educational functions, stories were also a source of entertainment. Tales like “The Tale of Sinuhe” or “The Shipwrecked Sailor” provided entertainment and moral lessons.
While not ‘stories’ in the fictional sense, historical records and chronicles were narrative accounts of events, campaigns, and reigns; these often had propagandistic elements, emphasising the might and righteousness of the Pharaoh and Egypt.
Promotion of Trade and Diplomacy:
Some stories inscribed in official records highlighted Egypt’s diplomatic successes, wealth, and extensive trade networks. These narratives bolstered Egypt’s image as a dominant and prosperous power in the ancient world.
Healing and Magic:
Stories also played a role in magical and healing rites. Spells, essentially just structured narratives, were believed to have the power to cure illnesses, protect individuals, and guide souls in the afterlife.
Pharaohs: Marketing Genius
In sum, stories in ancient Egypt were more than just tales; they were powerful tools that shaped societal values, established political authority, connected the present with the divine, and bridged the mortal realm with the eternal. Understanding these narratives allows us to gain deep insights into ancient Egyptian society’s culture, beliefs, and values. That’s all well and good, but what does that have to do with marketing?
That’s a good question. Ancient Egypt is a civilisation that lasted for many thousands of years. The longevity comes down to several factors, one of which is that the country was run and operated like a business.
Thinking about how the stories of Egypt helped to craft one of the most interesting cultures in human history made me realise that they followed a simple rule that successful modern businesses also follow.
Establish a Powerful Brand Narrative
Just as pharaohs rooted their legitimacy in myths and divine stories, companies should craft compelling narratives about their brand’s origin, mission, and values to connect with their audience on a deeper level.
Ancient Egypt utilised stories to solidify societal structures, religious beliefs, political power, and cultural identity. These narratives explained natural phenomena, legitimised rulers, provided moral guidance, and fostered community unity.
Modern businesses can employ similar strategies by crafting compelling brand narratives, legitimising authority with testimonials, offering value-based content, fostering community, educating through storytelling, highlighting achievements, engaging with entertainment, showcasing success stories, evoking emotions, maintaining consistency, and adapting to changing times. By integrating these principles, brands can deeply resonate with their audience, similar to the enduring tales of ancient Egypt.