What a Punk Legend Taught Us About Storytelling

When you get down to it, most marketing is essentially storytelling that’s designed to evoke action. We at the agency live deep in the world of brand storytelling and sometimes find ourselves seeking inspiration in unexpected places — like from a punk rock legend.

Not long ago, part of the DW team went to listen to singer, actor and spoken-word artist Henry Rollins during his Travel Slideshow tour. Rollins has traveled the world and at this event, he shared photos and stories from trips to places like the Middle East, Africa, Central Asia and even Antarctica.

We enjoyed his presentation and learned a lot from his insights on life, culture and how we should be more engaged in the world around us. He’s a great storyteller and reminded us to dig deep when telling stories and finding a muse.

Here are a few nuggets from Henry’s show:

Every photo has a story.

Storytelling adds color to any work of art — including advertising. In today’s media-saturated world, we are exposed to a deluge of images every day. It’s easy to forget that most images have super interesting stories behind them. What we see in the picture is only the beginning of the story.

Always be inquisitive.

Henry encouraged us to continually learn about different cultures and people. He said when we visit faraway places, we should ask people about their life stories. When he travels, Henry will chat with anyone who will talk to him, from homeless people to aristocrats. He said life is too short not to travel and learn about other people and cultures.

Don’t be afraid to travel alone, and travel often.

According to Henry, nothing does more to open our eyes and change the way we think than visiting other countries. He showed us an image of a family in India collecting items to sell from a large dump. To Western cultures, this family would have just appeared as homeless scavengers. But because he was there and actually got to talk to this family, he learned that their story was much more than that — they were very respectable and they made their living by collecting valuable items at the dump.

Give back where you can.

Henry likes to help people in need when he can. Whether by giving money or teaching skills, he tries to improve the lives of others wherever he goes — especially those in desperate situations. If you’re in a position to help someone else, you build character by assisting them. And you add to their story.

People don’t always see America the way we do.

We are very lucky in this country. We have many luxuries and benefits that other nations do not have. To some, America seems like it’s full of greedy corporations and wealthy individuals who do not care about the world outside its borders. By doing our best to learn about others and their points of view — by really trying to put ourselves in their shoes — we can bridge cultural gaps between our societies. We can find points where our stories can intersect.