Each step of the 'brand storytelling hero’s journey' is essential, but perhaps none more so than step two, the 'emotional hero'.
You might argue that emotion isn’t just a step; it’s a core ingredient in the overall narrative. Emotion – a laugh or a cry, a scare or a smile – is what makes a story greater than 'content.'
This is true for all stories. But there is something more in the brand storytelling hero’s journey, something I call the 'emotional hero.'
Step two: Emotional hero
The most important thing to know about this step is that the “hero” doesn’t necessarily need to be a person. It also can be a brand or a circumstance, as in Google's “Homeward Bound.”
The 'hero' here isn’t the lost boy who used Google to find his way home but rather Google itself. A search tool becomes a lifeline, the emotion less about a family reunion and more about the journey.
Even when the emotional hero is a real person, the hero serves as our representative, our “way in” that helps us relate more deeply to the universal truth (step one of our storytelling journey.)
Apple gave us a brooding teenager in “Misunderstood,” who at first looks more like a villain than a hero. In the end, however, we learn that the teen could have been any of us, any time we stared into our devices instead of the person by our side.
A Proctor & Gamble story developed for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, “Pick Them Back Up,” is more straightforward. The hero in this case is the mom – specifically all the moms who encouraged their kids to realize their dreams despite years of falls, cuts, bruises and broken bones. The Emotional Hero transcends the Olympic story to represent all moms who make countless sacrifices for their kids.
The emotional hero is a story’s soul, an archetype that allows us to connect with the subject matter as well as see ourselves in the narrative. Yet for emotion to have impact, something more is required. A shift in direction, a change in perception – or a simply remarkable 'twist of fate.'
Up next: Step three, the twist of fate.
Gary Goldhammer is Hill+Knowlton Strategies' U.S. Digital Strategist and is based in our Costa Mesa, CA office.