Every object has a story

My re-usable travel mug gets me through each day. It carries caffeinated beverages inside its Hamilton brand black and silver heat-protected walls, from the time I leave my house in Guelph to the time I leave Humber Lakeshore campus at the end of the day. Caffeine, and therefore my travel mug, helps me get through each day.

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I bought my travel mug at Value Village six months ago. I know it had a life and a purpose before I owned it, but I can only imagine what that might have been. Maybe it helped a fellow student get through early mornings and all-nighters. Maybe it helped a single mother get through her work day after a sleepless night. Maybe it helped a construction worker stay safe on the job.

Since I have owned my travel mug, it has helped me be a better writer. The caffeine it provides inspires scenes and characters. The comfort and consistency helps me find engaging ledes and write succinct nut grafs. The mug makes me into a storyteller.

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Every object has a history and a journey before and after it comes into our lives. Supply chains and global markets dictate mass production. Many of the objects we own come from far away countries and complex production processes. And each object ends somewhere close to a landfill, slowly decomposing amidst a heap of human waste.

Every object has a story. Sometimes, we need to be reminded of how our world is interconnected, and how even an object as seemingly insignificant as a travel mug, has a story.

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If you want to sell a product, you have a lot of options for how to describe it. You could talk about its features – what is it made of, what makes it better than a similar product, what are the specific things it was built to do? But the most effective approach would be to talk about where it came from and where it will take you, because that is what makes someone want to buy it.

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I might not be interested in the specific type of plastic my travel mug is made of. But I am interested to learn how the travel mug will shape my identity. Consider the following examples:

  • As an owner of a re-usable mug, I become an environmentalist. I get discounts on coffee products for my apparent dedication to the cause of the environment.
  • With my travel mug in tow, I become stronger. I am prepared and equipped for the day’s intellectually challenging tasks.
  • With my thrift-store purchase, I become an anti-capitalist. I am the picture-perfect anti-consumerist because I am actively making a product last longer than its producer intended it to.

As human beings, we respond best to facts when they are presented in stories. When we want to buy something, we want it to change us for the better. We want to be environmentalists, anti-capitalists, strong and successful workers. We don’t simply want to be travel mug owners.

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