Brand Development Through Narrative And Archetypes

The truth is a brand story is nothing new…

What is new though, is the challenge to communicate the same story across an ever-changing media landscape – And the real point of difference is that traditional archetypes will always be central to effective brand storytelling, regardless of the medium.

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Can you identify which theme runs through your story?

The Quest: Similar to the Hero’s Journey, the quest is about progression/maturation. The main character stumbles across several persistent obstacles that must be overcome to progress along the journey/story. (Frodo in Lord of the Rings) (Luke in Star Wars)

Rags to Riches: From pauper to prince or princess, the rags-to-riches archetype is well known. Brands/people will often use his or her own story or even a founder’s story with this in mind. (Oprah Winfrey) (Pretty Women/Movie)

Tragedy: The tragedy archetype — which relies on a tragic flaw, moral weakness, and/or deep suffering and is not often used for brand storytelling and most stay far away from it. But if you can do it well – it’s a very powerful expression of truth and transparency.

Rebirth: Mad Men was a modern user of the rebirth archetype. This 8-year series relied on a familiar pattern: 1) the hero or heroine is threatened, 2) the threat looms large, 3) the protagonists are imprisoned by the threat, 4) all seems lost, 5) at last, redemption, which often requires an about-face by the hero. (Don in Mad Men)

Comedy: Among the most memorable and popular stories are comedies. Characters are thrown into a state of confusion, darkness, and bewilderment — and resolution comes when constricting factors have been played to their extremes. While they are an audience favorite, comedies are one of the hardest to execute. There are so many brands in this category… here is just one. (Bridget Jones’s Diary)

Overcoming the Beast/Monster: This story expresses how we must become part God and Human; overcoming the monster is a common pattern. It’s the story of the disadvantaged hero who is confronted by an evil larger than him or herself. To defeat this evil or overcome their fear, the central character requires enormous courage, strength, and perception. (Like the movies Avatar and Terminator)

Passage & Return: This is the advancement from naïveté to knowledge. Alice in Wonderland is the prototypical example; this archetype pattern is similar to the quest, but with a difference in structuring. (Chronicles of Narnia and The Golden Compass)

A story that uses archetypes offers an audience a reliable backstory with a familiar rhythmic pattern that connects to our emotions and taps into our basic desires as social creatures, and brands that suggest or set these fundamental scenes, place themselves above and beyond the usual landscape of branding and marketing.

Contact me today and turn your story into an extraordinary story!

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For more great insights on why we tell stories – check out Christopher Booker’s book THE SEVEN BASIC PLOTS 


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