Besides context, setting, plot, and conflict, the protagonist is one of the most important elements of a story. Businesses that want to be successful at storytelling as part of their communications strategy should be aware of who their hero is, what he or she wants, and what pushes him or her forward. Obviously the company itself can be the protagonist. But what happens when we appoint someone else as the hero?
A brand is only given a face by its founders and employees. In order to get the audience to rally for him, the hero needs to be a round character with personal beliefs, values, and experiences. Therefore, a hero can be funny, emotional and at the same time imperfect. Humans prefer heroes who do not simply achieve their goals, but who face failures and resistance on their journey. In order to identify with the brand and to follow the story with excitement the audience has to understand what the mission of the hero is about, and what conflicts and obstacles he is facing.
Another level of storytelling opens up more opportunities to tell emotional and relatable stories. Without losing their significant part in the hero’s journey, companies should rather play the role of the mentor. Just like Yoda in Star Wars, Morpheus in The Matrix, or Mr. Miyagi in Karate Kid, the mentor gives advice, support, and tools to the actual hero (the audience, the customer) to help him or her accomplishing their goals. These goals are mostly found on top of the pyramid of needs: self-accomplishment in form of perfection, beauty, individuality, playfulness, justice, fulfilment, truth, or integrity. Some companies have already demonstrated how to make a story out of this form of empowerment marketing:
- Shutterstock Stories show people who want to live a self-determined and creative life in various ways
- #OneLessStranger is how airbnb tells the story of how their customers made friends with strangers by doing a little good
- #mygirls by adidas celebrates women with fitness, power, thirst for adventure, and style
Both levels of storytelling can be related in multiple ways, depending on the medium that is chosen. However, way too many companies still report on how big, fast, innovative, and great they are, instead of helping audience A to get to destination B. As one can see from the examples, empowerment storytelling is opening up far more opportunities to tell a story visually and digitally. And even better, it enables telling stories through the audience, who then becomes the hero.