Themba Jay: stories make the world go round

Happiness on
My tumultuous affair with stories keeps me happy

Authenticity is a huge building block in forming your narrative. So firstly, make sure to prioritise this one rule: whatever you do… just tell the world the truth!

My name is Themba. Hope (when directly translated). Mthizman, as my father would proudly say. James — the middle name from which the ubiquitous and well-known Jay took form.

One of the things I am most proud of is my love for stories and ability to tell them. I transfer my energy, inspire, change mindsets and teach. This is what moves me.

So, by extension, I am nothing more than a Communication and Marketing practitioner rooted in the practice of sharing knowledge and experiences on how we can use compelling stories to advance ourselves.

I love making conversations. If I am honest with you, I get high from them. They are quite essential, I believe.

I also believe: for almost everything we love, believe in and buy into, is predicated on really good stories.

Levi’s jeans. Not so different from other quality denim makers — but their story is unique and exhilarating. Just how Mr Levi Strauss started the clothing line is a great tale.

Steve Jobs. May his soul rest in peace. Apple. I buy into the story of how a man was obsessed with building superior and more elegant consumer products which then became an extension of your work as a Designer, executive, Illustrator, or Writer using a MacBook laptop.

Let’s face it. Samsung makes incredible electronic devices. The cameras in their mobile phones are impressive. And with other features, they stand toe-to-toe with Apple products.


A product or service well on its own is often not enough. (After finishing this blog post, of course, please go have a look at — their copy writing is on another level. Absolutely breathtaking. Intelligent, simple, short and elegant. To confess: I learn a lot from their marketing.)

Consider this: great storytelling is everything!

Coca Cola, Nike and Apple understand the value of telling amazing stories. And their pick of creative agencies to help them achieve that is usually spot on. When the first iPod came out, the copywriters did a classic job with the tagline: “iPod. A thousand songs in your pocket.” Often, many people fail to sell their products and services in less than ten seconds. And of course, if messaged correctly, than ten seconds is more than enough to put your point across.

A few months ago, while watching a movie set in the US one evening, a newspaper delivery truck swooshed across the screen in one of the scenes. What really caught me were the words inscribed on it. “Chicago Tribune. Beyond Words.” I was elated at having spotted this — the newspaper’s tagline is a whole story in just two words. Genius!

“You can tell a story with a single image. You don’t need a 90-minute movie. You can tell a really intense story with just one page.” Words that greet you as you begin to look at how Allan Amato tells stories through his striking photography and videos. He’s an insanely talented guy. His mantra on brevity helped me shift my view to accept that a few well-strung sentences can also make a compelling story.

So, it follows that a great product sold poorly is less likely to be hailed compared to an ‘average product’ whose story is told impeccably well.

Themba Jay on Brand Storytelling
Quoted from @LauraKlein

Also think about how as people we often buy more than a physical product. Let me explain: we buy the feeling it gives us. The status we enjoy because of it. The swag, if you like, that it lends us. We acquire the meaning it has outside the tech specifics and details that come with the spec sheet.

In short, we buy the story. The pulsating emotions. We fall head-over-heels in love with a brand for its story and what it stands for.

That’s why I love words. They communicate our business objectives, feelings, expletives and all sorts of things. They help along an entrepreneur articulate their passion; a possible all-star employee sell themselves and the value they bring. They help us decode information and come in handy when we teach. Words are life.

I am a proud Storyteller. So, I choose to do that by tap dancing with my pen. And in other instances, wax lyrical to gatherings of people. And say I am speaking, for instance, and I see a person’s eyes glisten and their mouth widen with excitement, that is enough to fulfill my soul. That is to say: telling stories is precisely what makes my heart sing.