Why HERO?


Every brand needs its hero. And at the centre of every successful brand campaign you'll find it. The hero could be an idea, a person, a product or a purpose. So it’s critical for a brand custodian to know what attributes define the inner character of their brand hero.

The hero, of course, is the brand itself and all its unique attributes, properties and stories. Like any good story that teaches and enlightens us, brand storytelling is about the higher purpose of why the brand exists and why customers and brand stakeholders should care.

Yet so much marketing “storytelling” is nothing more than outbound messaging and selling. Too many marketers see their job as to “message” out directly, rather than engage in the ideas and purpose that sit behind their brand.

Of course, every enduring story is based on an idea and human truth that's bigger than the story itself. The elements of any story – characters, plot, and environment – can clarify, focus, and influence the idea’s expression. But it’s always a deeper truth that drives the brand story.

The hero of the brand story is the character who conveys the big idea. And the heart of that idea is what reveals and celebrates the brand's purpose. A purpose that centres on somehow enhancing and improving people’s lives.

Creating value is about improving the condition of people’s lives.  From the dawn of language, stories have taught humans how to improve the conditions of life. And so to break through the clutter of messaging bombarding the mind, every brand must represent a single idea that improves the condition of the customer.

Our hero brand has committed to embarking on that journey. Through the hero’s example we are more in touch with what makes us all the better for it.That's why brand storytelling must define the hero, not just the message.

Brand storytelling begins with a clear understanding of who the brand hero is, what heroic attributes define it in differentiated and relevant ways to specific audiences. It’s not about advertising the features and benefits of products or services.

Brand storytelling defines the character of the hero, not the message. The hero brand has a purpose, beliefs, core values and sacred truths that will not bend to the whims of the marketplace or the moves of competitors, customers or key stakeholders. And because the brand hero is steadfast in holding to this truth while on its brand journey, these audiences will care because they see themselves in the narrative.

Stories of course are linear. They all have a beginning, a middle and an end. Screenwriters will tell you there are key elements that must be in the hero's journey for it to engage its audience. And this technique of story mapping can help define an enduring structure for all the key elements of the brand story.

The Hero’s Journey is a universal storytelling structure developed by Joseph Campbell and derived from myths and fables around the world. Over history, most stories have followed the structure of The Hero’s Journey. An ordinary person is brought out of the ordinary and into the unknown, where they overcome a series of trials and return to everyday life a hero.

The brand custodian who can fully define The Hero’s Journey for their brand is the marketer who will have a clear perspective on their brand story and why it is compelling and enduring. This definition begins with:

The Premise: What the audience (or customer) needs to know about beginnings of the brand story.
The Hero: Who is the brand and what does it stand for (its enduring purpose, values and fundamental truths).
The Struggle: The conflict for the brand that is preventing it from achieving or improving its competitive position.
The Motivation: Why is the hero is committed to this struggle? Defining the motivation for the brand to endure its struggle (to win, stop, find, cure, protect or escape something), is key to defining the purpose.
The Dynamic Tension: There must be an underlying tension that adds direction and momentum to the brand story and its hero's actions. 
The Opportunity: When the brand overcomes the struggle, an opportunity will present itself and contribute to the brand’s transformation.
The Transformation: How does the brand grow or change in its character during the story?
The Promise: How does all of this contribute to a compelling promise for the brand's audience? How will its customers' lives be improved, how will they empathize with the brand?
The Issues: What deeper issues, revelations, and cultural references are surfaced and incorporated in the brand story for greater relevance.

Great marketers use this structure to cast the brand as the hero. Their story encompasses: 
Departure: Who wants to lead a completely conventional life? A level of comfort and security is nice, but most people want to live memorably. A heroic brand can help its fans do that.

In The Hero’s Journey, the first step the hero takes is away from the ordinary world. Typically, the hero-to-be meets a mentor who hints at a world of possibility and the supernatural. For many brand stories, the brand itself is not the hero – it’s the mentor.

Once the hero-to-be has stepped into the unknown, they overcome various challenges and obstacles. A brand can work to provide heroic experiences for fans and other joyful moments.

The Cave: These obstacles prepare the hero-to-be for the real work: confronting evil in the heart of what Campbell calls the “inmost cavern.” To a heroic brand, this means issues that might divide people. The brand calls its fans to be heroic and overcome barriers that keep them from being fulfilled.

The Return: Once the hero has passed through its challenges and obstacles, they emerge victorious from the inmost cavern. Back to the ordinary world though, the journey is not over. The hero has insight to share and a story to tell. 

Now more than ever, people and brands are powerful. A brand can’t tell people what to think or feel, but it can create heroic experiences for them. It can help them express the part of themselves that draws them to the brand in the first place. It can bring people together in ways they wouldn’t imagine if it weren’t for the mentor’s call.

How can you make your fans heroes?