Creating Brand Credibility through Storytelling in American Travel Narratives on China

Date

2023

Authors

Agthe, Allison Hayden

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Abstract

Peter Hessler and Michael Meyer became regarded by an American audience as leading reputable and credible sources on China. Both men were English teachers through the Peace Corps and wrote about experiences from years of cultural immersion living in China. Hessler documented his experiences and interactions living in the small village of Fuling, China. Meyer documented living in a hutong community in the large urban environs of Beijing, China. Embedding himself in a hutong is something no other foreigner would think of doing. The travel narratives by Hessler and Meyer created strong and reputable personal brands of themselves. Even as cultural outsiders to Chinese society spanning Post-Tiananmen Square in 1989 to pre-2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, Hessler and Meyer became expert voices on contemporary China for the American audience who had little knowledge and understanding of China’s determination to become an eventual equal to the United States as an economic, political, and trade superpower.

Analyzing the first published books written by Hessler and Meyer through an advertising perspective, one can gather that they built personal brands, brick by brick, narrative by narrative. The personal brands that emerged from their first published books launched these writers careers. Hesser and Meyer are regarded as experts because they are trusted characters in their narratives who gained credibility through compelling storytelling. As characters in their narratives, the authors effectively created lasting personal brands as experts on contemporary China’s transformation. By examining three criteria of narratology, persuasive elements in branding, and participant observation, this thesis examines how Hessler and Meyer gained credibility. The credibility of Hessler and Meyer is attributed to their insightful and relatable stories of experiences as foreigners embedded in China.

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