Authenticity comes from an organization’s experience, their heart. But many times we have found that through the trials and tribulations of that experience, organizations begin to lose faith. At The History Factory, we highlight unique challenges from the past to identify examples of innovation that have helped drive success and inspire future ideas.
“One of my favorite stories is L. Frank Baum’s classic adventure, The Wizard of Oz, and especially the character of the Tin Man. At the beginning of the story, he’s a flesh and blood woodsman who makes the mistake of falling in love with a witch’s housekeeper. Because the witch doesn’t want to lose her maid, she places a hex on his hatchet, which slowly and systematically begins cutting off parts of his body. Every time the Tin Man loses a piece of himself, he fits himself with a new one crafted out of metal – until his entire body is entirely encased in Tin. He mistakenly concludes that his unfortunate transformation means he no longer has a heart and is therefore incapable of love.
Most organizations at some point in their history risk suffering from some version of the Tin Man Syndrome. Over time, in battle after battle, they don an increasingly thick carapace of armor to protect their reputation and their stakeholders, which makes them lose sight of the noble aspirations of their founders that made them successful in the first place. They falsely conclude that in order to survive, they must abandon their heart.
At The History Factory, we help organizations get reintroduced to their history, and say, “Of course you have a heart; here’s your heart.” And they gain their confidence back. For example, with Brooks Brothers, during a period in which the company was struggling to find its heart, we produced a video narrated by the inimitable George Plimpton, evoking an earlier a period when the company’s ideas and fashions were fresh and on trend among style makers. Through a montage of carefully curated photographs of the attached-collar shirts that F. Scott Fitzgerald wore in the 1920s, the ready-made suit Clark Gable wore when he wed Sylvia Ashley, and the multicolored socks and white button-down shirts that Andy Warhol spent his first paycheck on, we were able to reintroduce a new generation – both within and outside the company – to an inspiring period in the company’s history.
We went back to the source material— to the real images and the actual words. Commentary about Fred Astaire wearing a foulard tie as a belt was matched with an archival image of Fred Astaire wearing a foulard tie around his waist and then find the exact words he used to describe why he did it.
The combination of these iconic images, along with the rhythms of Plimpton’s textured narration—a voice he once aptly described as “Eastern seaboard cosmopolitan” helped evoke the exiting history of Brooks Brothers. You feel the grandeur and cachet that comes with wearing a perfectly tailored Brooks Brothers suit.
There’s meaning there, as James Baldwin would say, on the lower frequencies—a story that’s not so much about clothing as it is about fashion innovation, glamour and prestige. Essentially, stakeholders will resonate with your message if you keep it real. It pays off to be memorable and genuine. Show your audience who you really are and bump up that heart rate.”