A great book about using stories in marketing is “Building a Storybrand” by Donald Miller. Donald has turned the hero’s journey into a template for creating a marketing story. The benefit of this method is that it helps to simplify your message and actually can be used just for creating stories in general. Stories are a fantastic vehicle for making complicated concepts easier to understand.
The Story Brand
His template consists of 7 parts:
- A character who wants something
- Has a problem
- And meets a guide (hint: that’s you!)
- Who gives them a plan
- And calls them to action
- That helps them avoid failure
- And ends in success
What I love about this template is that you don’t have to just use this for marketing. This is a template used in some of the most beloved stories ever told. You can see elements of everything from Star Wars to Lord of the Rings. These themes are so universal that you can use this for writing your next book or creating a powerful selling message.
From a marketing perspective, this method is very captivating because it puts your audience as the main character. It’s not about us, it’s about them. This is a perfect opportunity to target your ideal customer. It highlights a problem your customer experiences and positions you as a guide to help them overcome the problem. Let’s further break down the elements of this story.
The Story’s Main Character
This is Frodo Baggins called on a great adventure to save the realm. It’s Luke Skywalker discovering the force and setting out on a journey through the galaxy. Everyone is on a journey and is the main character of their own story.
It’s very tempting to make ourselves the main character. However, when we do that we end up leaving our customers as outsiders. They want to be part of the journey.
The main character is the one who needs to change throughout this story. They will grow, they will be challenged and they will find out if they have what it takes to succeed.
Highlighting the Problem
The conflict is what makes a movie or TV show worth watching. We want to see the superhero overcome all odds and end up victorious. What would Lord of the Rings be like if Frodo only had to overcome evil hobbits instead of Sauron?
I think as a culture we tend to shy away from talking about problems. It’s viewed as harsh or insensitive to bring up other people’s problems. And it is distasteful when it’s brought up just for the sake of criticism.
What we propose is something different. We are bringing up an issue along with a solution. When you clearly identify that problem for your customers and offer to solve it, then they will naturally be interested.
How can creatives apply this? What problem does fiction writing solve? What solution does a painting provide? Everyone needs an escape from time to time. Everyone needs a way to unwind and refresh from everyday life struggles. Whether you realize it or not, you are solving a very important problem that your customer faces.
Music, art, movies, and fictional books all provide a necessary service for society. Creatives provide inspiration and innovation into our culture. They enrich our understanding of life itself and provide new lenses to view the world. Don’t sell yourself short on the value you provide.
Being the Guide in Your Marketing Story
Now we come to your role. It’s the tour guide pointing out the safe path to their final destination. You are Yoda revealing the mysteries of the force or Gandalf helping a Baggins pack for a journey.
As a guide, you understand your customer’s problem and you know the answer. You have a solution. It’s clear if your audience wants to be the hero they are supposed to be, then they need your help.
Delivering the Plan
Here is where you give a simplified game plan. It’s where we learn about the plan to go back in time and stop Biff to fix the timeline. It’s when we hear the plan outlined for the team to get behind enemy lines and deal the fatal blow.
In our marketing story, this is where we clearly communicate what will happen when the hero decides to follow the guide. You explain how it works. If possible list it out in easy follow steps.
Step 1. Submit the contact questionnaire.
Step 2. Meet one of our support staff for an informal meeting.
Step 3. Review your current business goals.
Step 4. Start the program that best aligns with your business needs.
Seeing simple organized steps helps install a sense of hope for your customer. They begin to see the possibility of using you to help solve their problem.
Call to Action
This is the part of your marketing story where the main character is given a choice. They have to accept their calling. As the guide, this is your opportunity to invite the main character to follow your guidance and your solution. This is the part of the marketing message where you ask for the sale.
It’s important that you clearly communicate the actions you are wanting your audience to take. If everything else about your marketing is perfect, but they don’t know how to make the purchase or take the next step you will still lose the sale.
Every customer is trying to prevent a tragic end. This means that your brand needs to clearly communicate the consequences your customer will experience by not buying your product or service.
Have you taken the time to clearly explain what’s at stake to the hero if they don’t follow the plan? What are the repercussions of not doing business with your brand?
The Happy Ending
People naturally want a happy ending. This is the transformation the customer desires from you. This is the point of the story where you paint a happy ending for them. Both your images and your sales copy must help your customers see their life with the problem solved.
Show them the positive effect of doing business with you. For a book, it could be an image of someone laying in their bed smiling as they read your book. For art, it could be someone enjoying a cup of coffee while your painting is hanging up next to them.
This is where you make them see the happy ending they have been waiting for. This model can help simplify your marketing story and pull your customers into their own personal success stories. And who knows it might even help you write your next masterpiece.
For more on creative marketing see our 12 elements of highly effective marketing.