There are many stories in this world, and most of them follow a pattern. Have you noticed similarities between Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings? Or Hercules and Star Wars? All these tales have something in common: the hero’s journey.
Also called a monomyth, this is a narrative structure, classified by mythology professor Joseph Campbell, that can be found in books, movies, legends, and folklore from all cultures around the world.
Knowing how to use this construction to create a storyline that captivates consumers can be a differentiator for your brand. So, come understand better how the hero’s journey works!
What is the hero’s journey?
As we have told you, Professor Joseph Campbell wrote in 1949 about the monomyth and its universal use in literature and film. Basically, he explains that every interesting story has a hero, and every hero follows a similar journey – only the names, times and places are different.
The viewer is invited to follow this trajectory, which Campbell has divided into 17 stages, and you can see them in the picture on the right.
One of the reasons why the hero’s journey is so popular is that there is always the promise of change. So we know that somehow the hero of these stories will go through situations that will impact their lives, causing them to end differently than when they started. It brings a sense of reward to see people reaching their goals and evolving with the learnings from the path that led them there.
If you want to find an interesting and efficient way to tell your brand’s story, to instigate your customer, the hero’s journey is a great option. It is easy to adapt it to your reality, molding it according to your particularities.
How to apply?
The first thing you should focus on is giving a positive and moving message. People don’t want to see a commercial appeal; emotional connection is only really created when human nature is considered and what actually stirs our feelings.
The Content Marketing Institute’s chief strategy consultant, Robert Rose, and his team have summarized in 10 steps those 17 defined by Campbell, for you to follow to build an engaging narrative for your brand:
- The conventional market (originally, the “everyday world”)
- Facing a Challenge
- Rejecting the Challenge
- Naming the wise
- Crossing into the unknown
- Mapping the Challenge Path
- Facing the Final Challenge
- Looking back at the changes you have gone through
- Eager for new challenges through a change of perspective
- Celebrating your victory
To summarize further, we can boil it down to three basic fundamentals: the character, the conflict/challenge/obstacle, and the resolution/conquest. But since we are talking about brands here, we need to add one more super-important element: the customer.
1. The character
First you will introduce the character of your plot. If you are telling the story of your brand, for example, you should be the character! It’s nice that you tell how things were before the brand existed. Illustrating the pre-business reality makes it easier to understand their motivations.
2. The conflict
Nothing makes a story more interesting than conflict. It is what makes the reader or viewer anxious for the final solution, and it also makes the customers better able to identify with the storyline.
3. The resolution
Now is the time to show that the journey was victorious! You need to give the story a happy ending, a feeling that the mission has been completed. This is what is expected when the viewer or reader follows a narrative.
4. The client
It is necessary to show the customer how the brand can impact and improve his life, after all, he needs to feel that he is being favored. Where does your resolution benefit the consumer’s life?
Another way to insert the customer into the narrative is to place him or her as the hero. In an advertisement, for example, by giving the consumer this position, you are shifting the focus to them: the customer first, and the brand second. In this case, the brand can function as the mentor, guiding the hero through his journey and showing how it will help him achieve his goal.
Benefits of using the hero’s journey
We have already mentioned it, but it is worth reinforcing: this narrative format will certainly help you create a deeper connection with your consumer. Everyone loves a story with heroes, conflicts, and twists and turns! This becomes even more evident when we find ourselves at the center of the plot. This way, the customer will realize that your intention is not just to sell, but to provide a relationship of loyalty and mutual trust with him, contributing to the solutions to his problems.
This 2019 Bradesco advertisement has a very nice message. We can perceive a parallel double journey: that of the firefly that does not glow and that of the boy with Down’s Syndrome. Both suffer and feel excluded because of their characteristics, and find themselves facing a challenge. Though fearful, together they venture to reach their goals.
Even when they succeed, yet another obstacle is revealed, and that is when the message really becomes clear. With the union of all the fireflies, our protagonist also manages to stay free, while our other hero is revered for his courage. The phrase that reveals itself at the end sums up the idea: in 2020, shine your way.
All the characters come out changed after their experience, more open to each other’s differences and individuality. It is a tribute to and an encouragement of acceptance and respect for all kinds of people, which clearly raises the viewer’s awareness.
With this clip, Apple told the story of a girl who had difficulty showing her art. Her shyness prevented her from following her path. This reflects his internal conflict and the hero’s rejection of the call to adventure. But with a boost from his mentor figure, who here is his own dog (cute, huh?), his truth is revealed.
When she encounters people’s approval and receptivity to her work, she finally lets go of her insecurities. Her journey is complete the moment she realizes the importance of sharing her gifts, and these are exactly the words (share your gifts) that appear on the screen.
The music still helps to set the tone. She (come out and play, by Billie Eilish) talks about how rewarding it is to not be afraid to take risks and to expose who you are: “I know it makes you nervous, but I promise you it’s worth it to show everything you’ve held inside.
Thai Life Insurance
Here, the teaching is about generosity. We follow the hero as he takes various actions to help those around him. Even in the face of disapproval from some observers, he continues in his mission to do good – it is his daily choice.
You can see that the obstacles take the form of judgment. People don’t seem to understand the reason for his kindness. One soon learns that his motivation is solely and exclusively to distribute love and receive positive feelings in return.
There are few things more impactful than someone being kind just by being kind. This gives us hope for a more just society, with more empathy and evolution. And this is the message: contribute to a better world.
It is essential, to tell a story, more than a good formula – you need a good message, with something powerful and emotive to say, that can make the journey worthwhile. The hero’s journey is about overcoming obstacles and evolving.
Following the structure, with everything we have explained here, you can now build your story: demonstrate all the conflicts you faced and how you reached your purpose. This way, of course, your clientele will want to embark on your journey and will be able to understand the reasons why they should choose your brand!