McLellan: The hero’s journey continues
In last week’s column, I got us halfway through the stages of the hero’s journey, the construct we can use to think about weaving elements of storytelling into our marketing. I left off at the stage where the hero (our prospect) meets the sage sidekick (our product, service or brand).
In my example, our hero is a 55-year-old woman who is dealing with her aging father. She suspects her dad is showing signs of early dementia, but it may also just be forgetfulness. She had just met the sage sidekick through the nursing home’s website. It was not created to sell but to help.
It included tips for keeping a loved one at home, assessing whether or not staying in the home was a safe solution, and asking questions to evaluate nursing homes.
This facility also offered caregiver support groups, regardless of whether their loved one was still at home or even at a different facility.
The site was created to genuinely help our hero make the right decision, which is why she ultimately kept going back as she weighed her options. It became a reliable and trusted resource. It is worth noting that the nursing home whose website our hero keeps visiting has no idea she is out there or who she is. But they’ve already begun a relationship with her.
The next stage is crossing into the unfamiliar: Our hero has decided to explore her options, searching for the right choice for her dad. This stage is where the hero braces to face and fight the unknown. They’re anxious at this point because they know they’re going to encounter resistance, opposition and doubts. In our example, our hero is worried about what her siblings will think and wonders if they can even afford a nursing home or in-home help.
When she gets stuck or afraid, she turns to the sidekick for guidance and reassurance. The confidence she gains allows her to step deeper into the unknown, ready to face whatever lies ahead.
The battle: This is rarely a physical battle in our marketing world. But it might be a battle of options. Or opposition. Or the desire to go back to the status quo because it would be easier, even if our hero knows it’s not the right decision. This is the moment when the decision is made.
In our example, our hero must now choose the right nursing home because dad needs more care than she can provide. (In this stage of the journey, she will meet the actual brand and staff from the website she’s relied on, so the hero becomes even more real.) She might have to fight her siblings to make this decision. Or she may be plagued with guilt because of the conversation she had with her mom about caring for dad. But ultimately, she might do what she knows is right, even if it’s incredibly difficult.
The reward: This is the stage where the hero celebrates that they fought whatever was in between them and the right decision; they battled it out and won. Now they’ve solved the original challenge, and because of the journey, they are wiser and hopefully more content.
To wrap up our example, our hero’s dad is thriving in his new home, and he is healthier because he’s getting specialized attention from the nursing staff and eating better. The daughter can stop spending all of her time being his caregiver, and instead just enjoy her time with him as his daughter.
I’ve simplified the steps down to what I believe are essential from a marketing perspective. But hopefully this gives you an idea of how you could map out the core story and then build marketing messages from that story.