What can “hygge” and “guanxi” teach marketers about storytelling? For starters: be honest; be authentic.
Foreign words that don’t adequately translate to English have always fascinated me.
The Danes, for example, have their hygge, which is closely related to comfort, but more accurately describes that very specific warmness/safeness/placidity you feel when you’re around a fire with the ones you love.
The Chinese, similarly, have their guanxi, which literally means “relationships,” but is better described by a notion of forging and keeping mutually beneficial relationships and networks.
As marketers, we don’t focus enough on hygge and guanxi.
Take as an example Seth Godin’s “All Marketers are Liars.” He draws a line between honesty and authenticity, arguing that it doesn’t matter if something is actually better or faster or more efficient—it only matters if the perception of the marketing communication (the story) is authentic. The only thing a consumer cares about is a story he can believe.
There’s some truth to this, but I think authenticity is not the whole “story” on stories. The world is full of stories that are both honest and authentic. But are they impactful? Memorable? Think about the last time you listened to a meaningful story spoken from someone you trust and believe in. Think about how that story resonated with you—and how easily you can, this very moment, pull it from your memory banks. If that happens in the business world, that’s part hygge and part guanxi. And it’s the brands that foster hygge and have strong guanxi that ultimately make the difference with their marketing.
All marketers are not liars. We’re not all storytellers, either. So forge actual connections with your brand, your consumers and the ones you work with—know thyself, and know the ones you love. Be authentic; don’t try hard to manufacture it. The stories will come; the connections will forge.