There are millions of lessons to be learned from the Star Wars franchise: do or do not – there is no try, Harrison Ford will be the greatest heart throb that ever lived until he’s at least 147, to name a few, and of course: how to the theory of the Hero’s Journey makes some of the best storytelling.
The Hero’s Journey is a universal formula for a story that resonates with our collective unconscious. And that’s exactly the feeling we’re trying to convey through copywriting or brand storytelling.
First used by comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell in his The Hero With a Thousand Faces (1949), George Lucas deliberately followed this model to create his space opera. Just like Star Wars, there are eight essential steps in this theorem.
1. Establish a protagonist
A character in their zone of comfort.
In Star Wars, this is Luke Skywalker on the planet Tatooine with his uncle Ben and aunt Beru.
Within copywriting, this is the potential customer or lead, doing the same old thing they’ve always been doing. Say you’re selling a glove which removes dog hairs in one swift movement, your first line would be about a person petting or de-shedding their dog and getting hairs everywhere.
2. Something isn’t quite right (NEED)
Things aren’t perfect in our hero’s universe, the stage is set for external conflict.
In Star Wars, this is when Luke, our hero, examines R2-D2 and discovers a message from Leia, beseeching him to join the Rebel Alliance and to defeat the Galactic Empire.
In the world of copywriting, this is where you create a need for the brand you are promoting. Maybe the individuals struggling with dog hairs didn’t think of the fact that there’s a way to brush their dog without getting covered in hair.
3. Crossing the Threshold (GO)
The hero enters an unfamiliar situation and begins their journey.
In Star Wars, this would be when Luke starts to take his first steps towards his destiny to be the greatest Jedi who ever lived. Luke is told his father was murdered by a Jedi called Darth Vader and is presented with his father’s lightsaber. He discovers his aunt and uncle are killed by Imperial Stormtroopers, which prompts Luke to travel to Mos Eisley to team up with Han Solo and Chewbacca.
Continuing with the dog glove, this is where a solution/adventure is presented. “Look at this super cool tool that could totally be a solution to your problem of getting hairs everywhere. This is how it works and all the nifty features it has.”
4. The Road of Trials (SEARCH)
The hero adapts to their unfamiliar situation. The protagonist is broken down into their component parts. They gain the skills they’ll need to achieve their goals and return home. In big movie franchises, commonly known as the training montages – Rocky’s Eye of the Tiger montage, Mulan’s I’ll Make A Man Out of You training montage (iconic soundtracks not mandatory, but definitely recommended). For Luke Skywalker, this is where he travels to Dagobah to undergo his rigorous Jedi training and increasing his power in the Force, all whilst carrying Yoda around like a backpack.
For our trusty de-shedding glove, this could be a list of animals the glove can be used on (also works on cats and horses, for example), or a line or paragraph dedicated to how easy the product is to use (thus “training” the prospect in using your product, also allowing them to future gaze owning it).
5. Meeting with the Goddess (FIND)
Our hero completes his mission! The Need is fulfilled! Luke Skywalker is a Jedi Knight, he battles and defeats Darth Vader!
Our hero (potential customer) has succeeded to pet their dog without getting a bunch of hairs on their clothes.
6. Pay the Price (TAKE)
The hero pays a heavy price for achieving their goal, but a secondary goal is achieved. Although Luke wins the duel with Darth Vader, he makes the horrifying discovery that Vader didn’t murder his father, he is his father. He also loses his hand, which would definitely qualify as paying a heavy price. He discovers Leia is his twin sister, faces Vader again in The Empire Strikes Back, and manages to refuse the temptation of joining the dark side of the Force.
In copywriting, we would repeat the problem our prospect was having before, and rehash how that problem is now solved, as well as a secondary problem they may not have thought of. (Not only will your clothes no longer be covered in hairs, your dog will also love being petted and de-shedded at the same time. Bonus points because that rhymed.)
7. Bringing it Home (RETURN)
The hero crosses the return threshold, and comes back to where they started. Anakin Skywalker assures his son there was good in him after all, and dies of his mortal wounds. Luke takes his father to Endor and burns his body on a funeral pyre. His spirit is joined by the spirits of Obi-Wan and Yoda.
At this point in our copywriting, our prospect is back in their garden, de-shedding their pet, no longer facing the problem of getting hairs all over their clothes.
8. Master of Both Worlds (CHANGE)
The protagonist is in control of their situation, having changed. Luke Skywalker is no longer tormented by things unknown, as he now has closure that Darth Vader was in fact his father, but he was Anakin Skywalker, a Jedi on the light side of the Force first, and the mission he was called upon for, defeating the Galactic Empire, seems to have been accomplished (for now).
Our trusty pet lover has resolved all of their pet hair related problems.
Want to build a strong brand? Create a mono myth or a Hero’s Journey. Not necessarily with products as illustrated above, but definitely for your brand.
The Hero’s Journey is circular storytelling: we see the descent and return between order and chaos. We cross a threshold into the unconscious, and find out something important about who we are. After the cycle, we return to the safety of the waking mind – a process referred to by Joseph Campbell as a “mirror to the ego”.
So when you’re creating your brand – show us the mirror.
Create your hero (the consumer), give your brand an accessible, overarching narrative and follow these 9 steps.
It might not be a Space Oddyssey, but it’ll 100% do the trick.