Marketing with Myth

Classical mythology provides (or at least, when more of the general public was aware of it, once provided) a deep well of shared meaning from which marketers can draw. Think of NASA’s naming conventions for its space programs in the 60s: would the Apollo missions have sounded quite so noble without the moniker of the god of science and light? But as a former mythologist who now works in marketing and communications, I have a plea for my fellow marketeers: please, please, do your research first. It seems like every other week I encounter a product or service whose mythological name  might sound cool, but provides exactly the wrong message to anyone actually familiar with the story being referenced. Just three of the most egregious examples:

My Paperback Debut

During the year after I graduated from Oberlin College, while I was working for the Office of College Relations, I was able to take one course per semester for free. One of the courses I took was called “Teaching and Tutoring Writing Across the Disciplines.” Aside from our own writing and discussion, part of the class consisted of working as a writing tutor for college class (I tutored Paula Richman‘s “Introduction to Religion”).

The primary text for the class, Working with Student Writers: Essays on Tutoring and Teaching, was a collection of essays that had been written by previous students in the class, edited by the instructor,  Len Podis, and his wife, JoAnne Podis. I still have my copy, filled with the enthusiastic scribblings of my 22-year-old self, who could imagine no other path than going on to graduate school and eventually becoming a professor himself.

Now, just over ten years later, Peter Lang Publishing has released a second edition of Working with Student Writers featuring the essay I wrote for that class: “The Hero With a Thousand Voices: The Relationship Between the Narrative and Academic Styles.” The book is also available on Amazon. In the essay, I attempted to mediate the tension so many young writers encounter between the academic discourse community they’re suddenly expected to inhabit and the narrative discourse that they’ve been consuming and producing their entire lives; I did so by highlighting the commonalities between the two forms of narrative and academic writing, and by reframing the writing process itself as a narrative.

It’s actually a lot more entertaining than it sounds, I swear.