Deliver the Promise; Sell the Dream with Your Own Hero's Journey

By Andy Cunningham

Who is Joseph Campbell and what in the world does he have to do with marketing today’s enterprises? Well, long story short, Joseph Campbell popularized hero myth narrative theories and captured his thinking in a work from 1949 called “The Hero with a Thousand Faces.” In it he describes a narrative arc, or hero’s journey:

 “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”

 Or more simply, a “hero” is compelled to go on an adventure, meets with severe challenges, faces a crisis of death or rebirth, takes victory with a transformation, and returns home to share new-found knowledge with all of humanity. Everyone applauds.

 Isn’t this the very journey of every company today? A hero is driven to build a product or service, meets with challenges in the market that could result in certain death, overcomes those challenges with product-market fit, transforms the company with a brilliant product and delivers market success. The market applauds.

 Yet the hero’s journey is sorely lacking in today’s tech narratives. These companies in particular have all but trashed the tradition of a corporate deck that acts as a top-line sales tool—a description of the promise—for investors, analysts, press and of course customers. This seems to have happened as the onslaught of marketing automation has blanketed the discipline of marketing. We’re so in the weeds of describing our product at the microscopic level to snag a digital lead that we have forgotten how to tell the bigger story that makes a promise and sells the dream.

 The bigger story is, in fact, your hero’s journey. Here’s how you can apply it to your company in six easy pieces. 

 1.    Establish the adventure with a hook for prospects.

2.    Express the challenges by showing context that presents a problem.

3.    Illustrate certain death—or at least severe pain—as a consequence.

4.    Highlight a transformation to victory by illuminating the opportunity.

5.   Deliver a gift to humanity by solving the problem with your product. 

6.    Justify this gift by explaining why you are the best choice.

 Every corporate pitch should follow this six-step process that provides a story arc for those two important sales questions: Why your company? Why now? With it you can deliver the promise and sell the dream. 

Andy Cunningham