Did you know that authentic brand storytelling is more effective than SEO tricks? In fact, research shows that a brand’s mission and backstory motivate consumers more than advertisements. Millennials, in particular, often turn to social media, website About pages, or blogs to see if you’re “legit”.
How can you build customer loyalty if your brand sounds generic?
To create an easy-to-love brand, you must first understand and articulate your mission and backstory. If your story shows integrity, you’ll gain customer trust. And the way to do that is through your brand’s unique “Hero’s Journey”.
How It Works
As a copywriter who studied screenwriting and journalism, I’ll share with you the tried-and-true techniques that storytellers have used throughout history.
Joseph Campbell analyzed this process decades ago. Later, Christopher Vogel transformed it into a 12-step Hollywood screenwriting formula.
For marketing content, I’ve adapted this method into a technique I call “Your Brand is a Hero”. I use it to create authentic brand storytelling and web copy for all of my clients. And now, so can you.
If you’d like to hear this described in a podcast, tune in to wpBUILDS. In part 1, I show how this technique can build a compelling brand story. In part 2, aired this December 14, I show how it relates to web copy. Both versions are free and can be found on the wpBUILDS website.
To get started now, grab a pen and notepad and follow the steps in this blog. Let’s begin.
The Hero’s Journey for Authentic Brand Storytelling
1. The Ordinary World: In film, this often occurs within 5-12 minutes. We see the hero stuck in his/her regular routine. And we see why breaking out of that world is necessary for growth.
In relation to a brand’s backstory, this is what you were doing before you built a new business or brand. Jot down what your needs and goals were then, and what motivated you to change.
For a great example of an entrepreneur’s journey, watch the film JOY. Compare the protagonist’s world in the beginning of the film to each step of her journey.
In my own backstory, I was a designer in NYC with a journalism and art background. For fun, I’d invent fake, ridiculous products and paint cheeky “ads” about them. You’d never have convinced me that many years later, this would become my dream job.
2. Call to Adventure: This is the catalyst that propels the hero to take action. Think of what compelled you to start your business. Recall what you sacrificed or endured to put yourself “out there”. Initially, you may resist this leap. But you do it anyway, because your life (or the lives of others) depends on it.
3. Overcoming Fear and Meeting Your Mentor: Who gave you confidence when you were starting out? Who taught you to overcome fear and take risks? This could be a deceased parent or teacher from long ago, or a mentor in the business world. The more unique and personal you make your brand’s story, the more interesting it will be to others.
4. Crossing the Threshold: Here’s where the hero adapts to this strange, new environment. The mentor usually appears with sage advice and guides the hero to the next step…
5. Commitment to Change, Despite All Obstacles: This beat is crucial to every story, yet amateur writers omit it. Why? They’re afraid of appearing weak. They don’t realize that…
Overcoming failure takes perseverance. Guts. Character. It makes you relatable.
We all stumble in life, especially when we’re on new terrain. But we pick ourselves up and continue. That’s commitment.
Has this happened in your business? Write down how it motivates your brand today.
For me, this took place during my first theatre production in New Zealand.
It was opening night at the Fringe Festival. Everything was in place and the venue was packed. But throughout the play, it was clear that the audience did not enjoy this political satire. As they trickled out of the venue, a seasoned festival director pulled me aside and said:
“All of the biggest media people were here. So at least you know your press kit was killer.”
I realized later that these were the words of a mentor. His insight assured me that, while I couldn’t control a play’s content, I knew how to fill seats. I had a knack for persuasive call-to-action and marketing copy. And I was determined to build on that.
This is the turning point where the hero’s commitment to change leads him/her to…
6. Meeting Allies
7. Enduring Ordeals
8. Adapting to New Conditions
In films, you sometimes see these 3 steps as a montage. Usually the hero is learning new skills from various allies. Often they are preparing for battle or the ultimate test.
In relation to my backstory, I had just moved to Canada. It soon became obvious that in order to keep my international clients, I’d have to branch into web copy.
I was already aware that my combination of skills —writing, design, and marketing— gave me an advantage over many other writers. But I hadn’t written for websites yet. How would I showcase this? To paraphrase Field of Dreams, I decided:
“If you build it, they will come.”
That’s right. I built baseball diamonds (websites), so people could see me pitch (write web copy).
Sounds crazy, but like the film, Field of Dreams, it worked. I attracted stellar marketing and web design teams. They wanted me as their pitcher/brand storyteller. And thankfully, they didn’t expect me to build the baseball diamond each time I played.
This High Point for the hero occurs toward the end of Act II. It’s called a False Victory.
Because in a hero’s journey, no prize comes that easily.
9. Big Changes
All stories have ebbs and flows called arcs. Without these, the pacing can become overwhelming (too much conflict), or boring (not enough conflict).
Here’s a brief example. While teaching myself how to build websites was fine at first, I needed to learn more. I joined a Facebook community of website builders and took a heap of notes. After some trial-by-fire training, I met Paul Lacey, a seasoned Web Designer. We agreed on a skill exchange: I’d edit his web copy and create brand slogans; he’d help me with web design and coding.
Things were going well. I secured a big client. Paul was teaching me CSS via custom-made videos.
Then one day, while finishing up a site, I experienced the hero’s lowest point in a story:
The Whiff of Death or All is Lost moment.
It happened after working 24 hours straight. My brain was fried, but I just had a few minor customizations remaining. When, suddenly–
POOF! The site crashed.
I stared into that dreaded White Screen of Death, a web builder’s worst nightmare.
Losing a full day’s work (with only 1 day ’til deadline) put me in a tailspin!
True to The Hero’s Journey, I called on my ally, Paul Lacey. He immediately helped patch things up. Now, we’re a long-distance team: I send web clients to him; he sends marketing copy jobs to me.
What’s the point of Step 9?
To gain customer trust, share how you overcame a big obstacle. This shows that you’re capable, humble, and honest.
10. New Dedication: This is where the hero comes up for air. He/she has learned to swim, but still has a distance to go before reaching land.
In my story, it comes to this:
The result of my hard work, research, and challenges are paying off. I’m getting calls from headhunters and companies. They’re saying how impressed they are with my writing and they’re networking for me.
That feels great, because I’ve always been the promoter for others. I love doing that. But getting this treatment in return and having others network for me… well, this fortifies me for the final leg of my journey.
11. The Resurrection
12. The Prize or Elixir
These last 2 steps are how films and books wrap up.
The Resurrection is where a hero is stronger by resolving the polarities he/she faced at the start of the journey.
He/she has escaped death, won the prized Elixir, and must share it with others.
The closing scene usually shows that the hero has come full circle. In fact, quite often, the closing scene visually mirrors the opening.
In the beginning of my story, you’ll recall that I was the anti-copywriter. I eschewed consumerism and made cheeky paintings that mocked advertisements.
By contrast, at my story’s end, I’ve combined my design and writing skills to become a professional copywriter. Now, I help small businesses manifest their big visions. That’s the Elixir in my brand’s journey. And this is how I share it.
In Field of Dreams, the hero builds the baseball diamond and attracts his dream team. Against all odds, he saves the farm and converts the naysayers. As a result, he connects with his family in ways he never expected.
That’s how his story ends.
Yours has just started. Let me help you tell it.
For authentic brand storytelling and copywriting services, call +1 (778) 712-1268 (Canada) or email firstname.lastname@example.org. I specialize in adopting a brand’s tone and voice for every platform, and can use British, American, or Canadian grammar. Oxford commas are optional. 🙂
New clients: Get a 30 minute brand consultation FREE. Contact Pagebreak today.
Thanks and I look forward to hearing from you.