How to Improve Your Content Marketing with the Hero’s Journey

You’ve probably heard it before – good marketing is about storytelling. A good story sells products. Your brand needs a story.

“Storytelling” is the content marketing buzzword of the past few years. It’s everywhere from conferences to courses to books – to the point where some marketers are over. it. Over it!

But there’s a reason the trend has resurfaced and will continue to again and again.

It’s simple – ready?

EVERYONE LOVES A GOOD STORY…

Introducing the Hero’s Journey

…and every good story follows a trusted formula. Sorry to take the mystery out of it, but there you have it.

Bestsellers and blockbusters use proven storytelling patterns to pull at your heartstrings, get your blood pumping, and make you care whether the protagonist wins the game or falls on their face.

The Hero’s Journey is a classic formula. The concept is not new (nor is it the only framework out there – more on that in a minute).

This archetypal story pattern is credited to mythologist Joseph Campbell, as described in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. It was later refined by Christopher Vogler in The Writer’s Journey. In his book, Campbell waxes philosophical about how humans around the world tell versions of the same story, over and over.

Side note: It seems crazy to me that such a broad-sweeping observation can be credited to one person, especially in a world with such long oral traditions – but ok!

A Content Marketing Success Story

I create a lot of websites and write brand copy for clients using this framework. A lot of the biggest and most popular brands also use the Hero’s Journey formula to connect with customers.

We use it because it works.

Don’t believe me? Keep reading.

Let’s talk about shoes for a second.

Nike’s Just Do It. Campaign is a stripped-down version of the Hero’s Journey. It’s what made Just Do It. so infectious (and so profitable). Whoever the ad agency was that came up with this – big high fives all around.

Why does it work? The campaign paints you as the hero.

Just Do It. says that regardless of occupation, age, or gender you can do anything you put your mind to. YOU can do it. The product is just there to help you along your journey to achieving your goals, whatever they happen to be.

just do it storytelling content marketing

A Modern Day Hero’s Journey: StoryBrand

More recently, you may have heard or seen a new version of the Hero’s Journey, re-branded for a modern audience and a new generation of marketers.

Author, speaker and business owner Donald Miller has essentially repackaged the Hero’s Journey, giving it a catchy new name fit for our times – StoryBrand. Or, even more concise and textspeak-friendly, SB7.

While a lot of what Miller says has been said before, he drives the key point home –

CUSTOMERS DON’T CARE ABOUT YOUR STORY – THEY CARE ABOUT THEIR OWN.

With the SB7 framework, Miller focuses specifically on applying the formula to marketing and brand storytelling, as opposed to using it for books and movies. He breaks the formula down into seven neat and easy buckets, making it really easy to execute.

As I said, StoryBrand and the Hero’s Journey are not new, nor do they stand alone.

Plenty of others have stood the test of time. Dale Carnegie is famous for his “Magic Formula”. Problem-Agitate-Solve is a popular strategy for sales copy. And as a former improv comedy geek, one of my personal favorites is the Story Spine.

Developed by professional playwright and improviser Kenn Adams, the Story Spine has since been nicknamed the Pixar Formula. The movie makers have used this format to make billions of dollars and win several awards.

I told you – everyone loves a good story!

The Proven Storytelling Formula

Hero’s Journey, StoryBrand, SB7, call it what you will – following along as a character struggles to be victorious (or fail) is engaging. It draws you in.

Why?

Because we’ve all been there. We can relate.

This format is tried and true, from King Arthur to Star Wars to presidential campaigns.

Here’s how it works:

Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey template contained 17 steps. Donald Miller’s has 7. Another point for StoryBrand.

7 steps to a great marketing story:

7 steps to a great brand story
Image courtesy of StoryBrand.com
  • Character
  • Has a Problem
  • Meets a Guide
  • Who Has a Plan
  • Calls the Hero to Action
  • Which Results In
  • Success

                  OR

  • Failure

Voila! P.S. I hope I haven’t ruined all your favorite movies and books!

Using the Hero’s Journey in Your Content Marketing

At some point, brand marketers must have looked at the box office figures and decided it was time to get in on the action.

And lo and behold, storytelling is the biggest wave in content marketing today. There are entire workshops, books, websites, and coaching programs built around teaching the art of the story.

So how can you use storytelling for awesome and effective content marketing?

If we can go back to Nike for a minute – the key to using the hero’s journey in marketing is this: the customer is the hero – not your brand.

THEY’RE THE HERO. YOU’RE THE GUIDE.

In the classic hero’s journey, the main character (the hero) has a problem which he or she (hopefully) solves.

It’s easy to think your brand should be the main character, aka the hero. But I have news for you – Customers don’t care about your story. They care about their own. (kind of like Donald Miller says in his SB7 pitch).

By positioning yourself as the guide or mentor, you can highlight the benefits, not features, of your product. You can focus on outcomes, aka success for the hero, aka your customer.

Why It Works

“92% of consumers want brands to make ads that feel like a story” 

Seems simple right? It is. And that’s exactly why it works.

Brand storytelling works because stories tap into our emotions. When done right, they make us forget, if even for a moment, that we’re being sold to.

Stories are emotional, and as you probably know, emotions sell (using emotions to sell is a whole ‘nother blog post).

Besides, people are extremely savvy these days and making your brand the hero comes off as icky and stilted.

If you’re ready to tap into the emotional connections created through storytelling and drive your customers to buy, I can help.

I will use the proven Hero’s Journey/StoryBrand formula (or another proven style) to engage your target audience, position you as an expert guide, and get people to click the best of all buttons – the BUY button.

If you want to learn more, shoot me a message! I love to talk shop.

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