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The content series below explores the Brand Storytelling Hero's Journey, a new model based on the original Hero's Journey developed by Joseph Campbell. It's a pattern rooted in mythology which has stood the test of time - and now brands can use a similar approach to tell stories that move people as well as products.

This new Hero's Journey has four main steps: Universal Truth, Emotional Hero, Twist of Fate and Transformation. U.S. Digital Strategist Gary Goldhammer reviewed dozens of well-performing brand stories and found the same pattern. Each of these stories follows a linear narrative. They are a quiet repudiation of our hyperlink generation and a validation that, when stripped to an emotional core, people respond to narratives and order, to patterns and familiarity.

While there are always exceptions, the basic pattern nevertheless persists.

Breaking the Story Code: The Brand Storytelling "Hero's Journey"

Anyone who has watched Star Wars - knows that this classic film is an example of a "monomyth" - the belief that all narratives follow a common pattern.

Joseph Campbell famously referred to this concept as the "Hero's Journey." From Hercules to Luke Skywalker, from Humphrey Bogart to Harry Potter, this pattern can be found throughout literature and film. We are hard wired as humans to follow the Hero's Journey; it is the bedrock of all great storytelling.

Universal Truth - Step One of the Brand Storytelling Hero's Journey

The "Universal Truth" establishes a common frame of reference for the story. Like the classic myths, this "truth" also transcends culture and language. We recognize it instantly - we relate to it deeply.

A dying parent who needs medical attention. A holiday gathering. A social issue. The Universal Truth can be anything that grounds the story along familiar lines.

Emotional Hero - Step Two of the Brand Storytelling Hero's Journey

Each step of the Brand Storytelling Hero's Journey is essential, but perhaps none more so than step two, the Emotional Hero.

You might argue that emotion isn't just a step; it's a core ingredient in the overall narrative. Emotion - a laugh or a cry, a scare or a smile - is what makes a story greater than "content."

Twist of Fate - Step Three of the Brand Storytelling Hero's Journey

HUMANS LOVE A GOOD PATTERN. We seek them for the safeness of familiarity - patterns are "comfort food" for our minds. So when a pattern is interrupted, we take notice.

Just as our brains are wired for narrative, so too are they designed to react to sudden change or events outside our perceived norms, increasing our engagement in the overall story.

Transformation - Step Four of the Brand Storytelling Hero's Journey


Star Wars worked because Luke Skywalker became something greater than even he believed was possible, because Han Solo went from heartless smuggler to selfless soldier. Humphrey Bogart had to transform into a freedom fighter for Casablanca to rise above being just another sad war-torn love story.

Breaking the Story Code: Why the Brand Storytelling Hero's Journey Matters

STORIES ARE PATTERNS. Understanding these patterns, these codes hidden in plain sight, is the key to telling stories in a world of infinite media. Stories today live across paid, earned, owned and shared channels - once divergent narratives now layer together for maximum impact.

Yet this still isn't enough. There's one more critical piece we need to break the story code.

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