top of page

Marketing, Storytelling & A New Hope

Updated: May 5, 2020


-People don’t like being sold to - they want to be related to

-The Hero’s Journey is the most relatable story

-Your business isn’t the hero, your audience is

Have you ever watched The Office or Friends and felt like “Wow, I know exactly how that character feels because something similar happened to me”?

Maybe you feel for Michael because you’ve had trouble getting people to like you in the past and you really want them to like you. Or maybe you’ve felt for Monica because you’re super OCD and hate it when people don’t use coasters.

This is the power of a great story. You relate to characters in stories because you know what it feels like to be in their shoes.

It may not look like it at first glance, but storytelling and marketing go hand in hand. People don’t like being sold to because it comes off as annoying and desperate. People want to be related to. You want others to really understand what it feels like to be you - your problems, your hopes, your fears, your interests. It establishes a connection that's like, “Hey, I understand where you’re coming from.”

Some time ago, I was online and looking at a company called StoryBrand that was started by a person named Donald Miller. Miller argues that storytelling is the most effective way to market your business and I am totally on board with this philosophy. He lays out a general framework for story and here’s my interpretation of it:

Usually, there is:

  1. A character who wants something

  2. A problem they have getting it

  3. A mentor who understands their fears & gives them a plan

  4. What life looks like now that they have what they wanted and their problem is solved

What Don has laid out for us is commonly known as the Hero’s Journey, a storytelling framework used in popular motion pictures. Let’s put this into context by using the first Star Wars film Episode IV: A New Hope as an example. Overall, the hero of A New Hope is Luke Skywalker.

I bet this claim could be argued but in the end he’s the pilot who blew up the Death Star so I don’t think there’s a way to top that, right? Anyways, he’s the hero of the story.

He wants to join the rebellion against the Empire and eventually he wants to know if he has what it takes to achieve Jedi status. Then he meets his mentors, Obi Wan and Yoda - both who are experienced Jedis and know the struggles of becoming one.

During Luke's quest of becoming a Jedi, they both give him a plan for defeating the Empire: to trust in the Force. When Luke puts the plan into action, he blows up the Death Star and we end the film with a medal ceremony showing what life is like after the fall of the Empire - a.k.a. the solution to the problem.

So how do you apply this to your marketing efforts? What role does your business play in the story? Well if we are trying to push people through a marketing-sales funnel, our business isn’t the hero because it isn’t our story. It’s the customer’s story. You can’t be the hero of someone else’s story, they have to play that role on their own.

Yes, your customers want your product, but they want more than that. They want you to relate to their personal human experience and the everyday problems they have.

Another really good example of this is present in a Tide Pods commercial I saw recently. They’re marketing the ziplock feature of a bag that the pods come in and how it's equipped with a child lock. The commercial shows a baby coming close to getting a hold of one of the pods but the mother takes it away right at the last minute.

There are a lot of moms who are in charge of the laundry for their household and more times than not, mothers are the most involved in the infant stages of their child’s life.

Mothers want to love their child, keeping it safe and giving it the best life possible. The problems they have are juggling all their daily obligations while also protecting and supporting their child. Then here comes Tide, basically saying, “We know your struggle and we can help you get what you want.” It’s implied, but now with the child lock, life is better and much less stressful.

So let’s be clear and break this down, StoryBrand style:

  1. A character who wants something: Mothers want to be less stressed when taking care of their child

  2. A problem they have getting it: Babies are loose cannons who don’t play by the rules

  3. Meeting a mentor who understands their fear & gives them a plan: Tide understands the challenges that arise from motherhood so they offer a child lock feature to ease the stress of a baby possibly being in danger

  4. What life looks like now that they have what they wanted and their problem is solved: Mom doesn’t have to worry about her child eating a little, poisonous jelly pod

So that puts your business into the role of the mentor. Your customers want something; they want what you can provide. They also have problems when it comes to getting it. You empathize with those problems and have a plan for how to solve them. Then you show what life could be like by following the plan and solving the problem.

The last thing I need to mention here is that you do not solve their problems for them. You offer them a solution or a plan that can serve as a means to solving their problems. But at the end of the day, they have to live their own lives and solve their own problems. By choosing your business, your customers found a way to solve their problems. They chose you and they chose to do what you suggested.

Your business is like Yoda, your customer is Luke Skywalker. You don’t blow up the Death Star, you show Luke how to do it and he goes and does it himself.

McKendry Bade


bottom of page