The Hero’s Journey and Branded Film Content

At Corduroy Media, clients come to us because they are looking for something different, something that will stand out. They want to break away from traditional marketing content and create branded film content that will be memorable, but it’s not always that easy. There’s budgets, priorities and … those pesky stakeholders. 

Aruba Networks is one of our dear clients that has taken the leap more than once with the Corduroy team. They have a strong brand with a loyal tech savvy following. This group definitely has their own sense of humor and cultural peculiarities and can sniff out marketing content from a server farm away.

When Aruba was acquired by HPE in 2015 they wanted to make sure to retain their cultural and brand identity. So, for the first global HPE sales kick off, Aruba asked us to pitch video concepts that would not only introduce the Aruba brand but also their product offerings in a way reflective of their own creativity.

In walks Derrick the Dude, a hero in his own mind and a perfect vessel for the The Hero’s Journey story structure.

Why the hero matters so much

Way back in January, we talked about the new age of content marketing and the rising trend of branded film content.  Remember that? Well, since then, we’ve had several conversations with clients about how to best create content that touches people emotionally. One of the most useful tools we have to help explain the power of our storytelling approach to new clients is the diagram (found below) of The Hero’s Journey, a narrative pattern identified by Joseph Campbell.


Actually, Campbell called it the monomyth, having determined that a single narrative pattern is at the center of all stories. Yes, all. Campbell breaks down the monomyth structure into 17 stages, but they can be further simplified into three main acts:

  1. The inciting incident, the hero’s call to adventure, and the departure from the ordinary world
  2. The ordeal, in which the hero is tested and must overcome serious obstacles to gain his reward or treasure
  3. The hero returns to the ordinary world

You may find it interesting to consider at how the 17 stages apply to all your favorite stories and movies. We love the infographic on this page that shows how The Hero’s Journey applies to six popular movies, including Harry Potter, Star Wars, and others.

The Hero’s Journey and marketing

One important stage in The Hero’s Journey is when the hero meets the mentor: The person who will provide the equipment, advice, training, or wisdom needed to overcome obstacles and “slay the dragon”.  Some well-known mentors include: Obi-Wan Kenobi (Star Wars), Gandalf (The Lord of the Rings), Morpheus (The Matrix), Dory (Finding Nemo), and Fairy Godmother (Cinderella).

This mentor plays a huge role in modern marketing strategies. Today, many brands are moving away from the “We’re awesome. Choose us,” strategy and toward a storytelling approach that places the consumer in the role of Hero and the brand in the role of Mentor. (Nike has been doing it for decades, and this is one of our favorites. Do you see how Nike plays the role of mentor in these heroes’ journeys?)

All stories that are able to elicit emotion do so because they touch readers and viewers on a personal level. Even if you’re not an athlete, for example, you can relate to the idea of being an ordinary person destined to do extraordinary things like the people in the Nike video above. The message: “We can help you be that extraordinary person you are meant to be.”

Seriously, how much more Hero’s Journey does it get than that, Frodo, Neo, Luke, Cinderella?

Storytelling is what we do at Corduroy Media

Take a look at Derrick the Dude again in the video above. While Derrick might not be your stereotypical hero character, you may notice how the narrative structure of The Hero’s Journey still applies.

  • Call to Adventure: Derrick gets a job – Ep. 1 opens with his first day.
  • Supernatural Aid: Janmarie shows up on his work-issued tablet.
  • Transformation begins: Ep. 2 Derrick uses technology to find selfie stick.
  • Challenges: Ep 3. Derrick throws a party, Janmarie refuses his invitation.
  • Death: Ep 4. Derrick get’s locked out of phone for compromising data.
  • Rebirth: Ep 4. Derrick asks for help – finally get’s date with Janmarie.

Not all 17 stages of Campbell’s monomyth show up in every story, but see how many you can point out in the four episodes of “Derrick the Dude.” Or just watch and see if the story works for you. If it does, why do you think that is? If it doesn’t, don’t worry about it. This is not a test.

Here’s the thing to remember:

Great stories were told for millennia after millennia before Joseph Campbell came along. He didn’t create the narrative structure; he just pointed it out and gave it a name. So, no, you don’t need to know the 17 stages of The Hero’s Journey before you can successfully tell your brand’s story.

But hey, if you want some help, we’ve got you covered.

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Posted on

March 14, 2017