Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller uses a marketing framework that employs the story structure of Joseph Campbell's hero's journey as a method to communicate the essence of the brand.
The hero's journey is used by marketers because it makes explaining complicated ideas intuitive and easy for people to understand in the conventional market. The hero starts off at their normal life, experiences something that throws them into extreme discomfort, heads out on an adventure in order to discover what they need to learn, and comes back to help people with that knowledge.
For example, Apple has always marketed itself using hero stories. They are seen as heroes who changed the world -- not only do they make our lives easier but they also challenge old standards by presenting new technology, forcing others to follow suit, or get left behind. By adopting hero stories, you can create marketing materials that are compelling, easy to understand, and shareable.
The hero's journey can be used to craft marketing material for anything--brand ads, website copy, social media posts, buying process, etc. The hero's journey also works because it speaks to the human desire to seek out adventure, overcome struggle and fulfill our greater purpose. By aligning your brand with this framework you make your marketing more relevant (and interesting) for people to become aware of.
That's why StoryBrand uses hero stories in all of its marketing materials -- whether it is for advertising or things like white papers. The hero's journey allows us to create content that not only generates awareness but drives action too! That means inspiring your audience enough they want to spread the story around which helps get your brand in front of even more people.
So, there you have it! The hero's journey is a marketing strategy that can help engage and inspire audiences around your brand! It makes communicating complicated ideas simple so you can reach a wider audience and drive action. StoryBrand hero stories can be used to tell any brand story -- whether it is for a product or service.
The hero's journey is an essential framework for marketers because it truly is the DNA of human motivation. By following this hero's journey blueprint, you are tapping into what makes us care about certain brands over others which ultimately will result in increased engagement, awareness, and conversion!
Who Is The Hero?
Every story begins with a hero. Not everyone will see themselves as this character (and that's okay), but every person who interacts with your brand has an emotional connection to it and experiences it like a protagonist in their own life's narrative. This person might be you or someone else, but either way, they are central to your brand narrative.
What Does The Hero Want?
The hero is driven by this desire. This might be whatever your brand sets out to deliver: a quality product, an entertaining experience, or a liberating message for example. Your brand and its story should solve some problems for your customer—however big or small it may be.
Who Stands in The Way of The Hero Achieving Their Goal?
Whenever there's a struggle, you'll have antagonists. You can see these characters in many forms: competitors, government agencies, even other people within your own company who are trying to protect their position.
While it might seem counterintuitive to acknowledge any kind of obstacle in business, if you don't understand what battles need to be fought, you can't win.
What Does The Hero Need to Succeed?
Finally, at the heart of every brand is its archetype—the character arc your customer is meant to experience. Everyone wants a story of heroism and transformation: a person who was lost and confused becomes enlightened and confident through a journey that leads them down a new path. Your brand's story should be no different--no matter what kind of a hero it takes on its adventure.
Who Are The Supporting Characters?
In addition to all of these narratives there are other people in your protagonist's life that might get involved with their struggle or offer guidance along the way: allies, mentors or even love interests for example. Every great hero needs a crew to back them up!
What Happens Next?
And then, just when it's all starting to look dark and daunting for our hero, they come out on top at the other end. They win.
In every brand story, there should be a happy ending—even if this is simply an ongoing series of stories that your audience can interact with from time to time.
Who is the Hero? The hero in a brand story is someone who becomes a customer through a desire for a solution to the problem set out by the brand's offering. This might be you or someone else entirely depending on what stage of the buying cycle your customer.
How Can You Help The Hero?
Everyone in your audience has a story. The StoryBrand Framework helps you identify the hero in your customer's story and aligns all of your marketing efforts to help them win their own stories.
Once you've identified who exactly you're trying to reach, it can be hard to know exactly how your brand can help them overcome the obstacles that they face every day.
Your brand is not a wizard or a superhero that can jump into someone else's life just because they need help overcoming their problems. But what does make sense is helping people align with a better version of themselves—a version where they feel less alone and more empowered through the values, benefits, and emotions attached to your brand.
Understanding exactly who you are targeting will allow you to better understand exactly what your brand can bring to the forefront of their life. And most importantly, aligning with a specific customer's story will help you tell a better version of your own.
How Should The Hero's Journey End?
Stories are important for brand storytelling. The StoryBrand Framework tells brand storytellers to finish the hero's journey with what is known as "The Ordinary World." (StoryBrand, 2017)
While it may seem like a disappointing ending, brand marketers who know the framework tell you that it is not. Rather, it is an important part of brand storytelling and marketing strategy.
Before we go into why finishing the hero's journey with The Ordinary World still makes for a great brand story, let's explore traditional endings in stories and how they don't apply to brand storytelling or marketing in general.
Traditional Marketing vs. Brand Storytelling: The Problem With Traditional Ending in Marketing
In traditional marketing storylines, a brand typically reaches its goal after overcoming many different challenges. The main character, brand, or product then gets the girl, saves the planet, or closes an important deal; it also usually correlates to brand success (and massive profits).
However, brand storytelling demands that the hero's journey end with The Ordinary World for one simple reason: brand success is not defined by a single moment of triumph. Rather, brand marketers must take advantage of opportunities as they arise and make sure to fund brand content constantly.
This is because people who aren't familiar with the StoryBrand Framework expect traditional marketing angles in brand stories. Returning to an ordinary world after experiencing something like defeating "the bad guy" can be disappointing at first glance.
However, this perspective quickly fades once you consider how the brand story should continue; brand marketers who know the framework never give up on brand storytelling, brand strategy, or brand building.
The Ordinary World in StoryBrand Framework: An Important Part of Brand Storytelling
After brand stories end with The Ordinary World, they typically transition into some sort of brand content (infographics, video series, etc.). This is because traditional marketing hasn't caught on that brand stories should continue beyond the final challenge and instead focus on one moment that doesn't necessarily correlate to success. But brand storytellers who understand the StoryBrand Framework know better than anyone else how crucial it is to actually finish their hero's journey.
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