6 Archetypal Stories — and How to Determine Which Ones Your Brand Should Be Telling
What’s something every story has in common? They fall into one of these archetypes. Yes, every story known to man. While these models are as old as humanity itself, how you tell your brand stories determines whether your audience sees them as unique, fresh, and compelling.
A look at the major story archetypes:
1. Overcoming the Monster
The “monster” can be anything from a giant IT mess and glitchy equipment to a lack of safe housing or educational opportunities. In other words, it is the challenge that your solutions will help customers overcome. In this ad by Walmart, the monster is a physical and developmental disability that threatened to keep a young employee from fulfilling his goals and dreams. See how he overcame it in this terrific brand video:
2. Rags to Riches
We are hard-wired to love stories, and we respond especially strongly to rags to riches tales. When we see other people struggling with — and overcoming — tremendous hardships, we can’t help but connect. Beyond that, though, we’re motivated to accomplish our own goals, no matter how audacious, and no matter what obstacles lie in the way.
Anheuser-Busch captures the emotion behind the beverage: in this Super Bowl spot, they tell the story of a young immigrant who contends with poverty, violence, and anti-German sentiment as he dreams of brewing outstanding beer. From humble beginnings to the world’s largest brewer: that’s a story worth telling.
3. The Quest
The classic tale of a hero who sets off to achieve his or her mission, a quest video helps you convey the “why” behind your brand. Warby Parker’s quest is two-fold: to provide stylish, affordable glasses and to create a positive impact with their “Buy a Pair, Give a Pair” program, which, to date, has donated 4 million pairs of glasses to people in need. They even provide training to help low-income folks start their own businesses selling the glasses.
Unless you’re doing a PSA, tragedy is tricky. Pulling at the heartstrings can feel manipulative if you go too maudlin. The key is balance and using intense emotion to clearly communicate your message.
This is what Usher does in his video for his #Don’tLookAway campaign. Visitors to the chains.tidal.com website look at the stories of victims of police brutality and racial profiling; using facial recognition technology, the music stops if the viewer looks away. The point is to confront the ugly if we want to change. While not a typical “brand” video, it uses tragedy to provoke thought.
Humor is powerful. It can be hard to get right, but when you do, it’s gold. If people laugh, they retain, and they share. Snickers consistently gets it right. It doesn’t hurt that they had Betty White doing the heavy lifting for them.
Something happens in the life of the hero to make them reevaluate their everything. People love the idea of being able to start again, of choosing a different path. This type of story resonates on a deep, emotional level.
Take this ad from Dove, for example. Several women visit a warehouse, not knowing what to expect. They are separated from a forensic artist by a curtain and asked to describe themselves. Some became visibly upset (“my mom always told me I had a big jaw.”) about flaws like dark circles, moles, and crow’s feet.
Next, the artist asks people who only just met the participants to describe their faces. The result: magic. The women reevaluated how they perceived themselves and discovered their real beauty.
How Do You Know What Types of Stories to Tell?
To answer this question, go back to your strategy. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again — and again and again: if your video does not align with your strategy, it is a waste of time and money.
Any success will be accidental and short-lived. To make an impact, to reach your audience, to move your brand towards its goals, you need to have a plan and create videos that support it.
So, who is your audience? What are their needs? What is your story? When you answer these questions, you can determine which types of videos will deliver your message in the most engaging way possible.
You’re a socially conscious brand that’s active in your community? Talk about your quest.
You’re a family business that your grandmother started in her basement? Highlight your rags to riches history.
Your customers are dealing with significant challenges? Help them “overcome the monster” with your solutions.
You’re all of the above? Incorporate a mix of different types, depending on which story you want to tell. The point is that the message dictates the medium, and the way in which you tell your stories determines whether you will reach and connect with your audience.
So, how will you tell your story, differently?