Brand Storytelling Origins

July 1, 2020 6 min read
Your brand story is a tale/story/narrative/anecdote that involves a hero (your customer) who goes on an adventure, and in a decisive crisis wins a victory, guided by your brand, and then comes home changed or transformed.
Brand Storytelling Origins
Brand Storytelling Origins

Your brand story is a tale/story/narrative/anecdote that involves a hero (your customer) who goes on an adventure, and in a decisive crisis wins a victory, guided by your brand, and then comes home changed or transformed.

Nice story framework, right?!

But where does it come from?

No, I am not talking cave people writing on the walls, explorers jotting down their trips on a boat. No, I am talking about those guys and girls you see with the black and white photos (very grainy) that influenced HOW we tell stories today.

Think Freudian, Ulysses or Odyssey… then think Rick & Morty, The Matrix and any current movie franchise or series you are binging at the moment. These guys didn’t just have a bunch of coffee, a book and a pen and wrote our favourite shows… Nope, there must be a formula to it.

Our Mission: Find out how to tell our very own brand story and build on the frameworks of the greats.

So we are going on a brief adventure… being a Brand Barbarian (Homo Sapien that does branding) I love to tell a delightful story and get behind what makes a brand, the client and the end-user tick. We will find out where we can get a "cure-all" formula to write a decent brand story.

But first… let’s look at some frameworks and the players of today.

The Hero’s Journey

The Hero’s Journey is a classic story structure that’s shared by stories the world over. It refers to an extensive category of stories in which a character ventures out to get what they need, faces conflict, and ultimately triumphs over adversity.

Often described in a framework of 10-12 stages, Joseph Campbell summarised the basic idea as follows in his epic 1949 work The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

Joseph Campbell

Joseph Campbell

I am a massive Joseph Campbell fan, got the t-shirt, have the cool poster hanging in the room and absorbed everything that he wrote.

Campbell often referred to the work of modern writers like James Joyce. His ideas regarding myth and its relation to the human psyche are dependent in part on the pioneering work of Sigmund Freud, but in particular on the work of Carl Jung, whose studies of human psychology and the Jungian archetypes influenced his work.

The Hero’s Journey

Adapted for the Artist

Steven Pressfield – The Artist’s Journey

In Steven Pressfield’s book The Artist’s Journey: The Wake of the Hero’s Journey and the Lifelong Pursuit of Meaning, he starts where the Hero’s Journey ends by saying "You are an artist… and you have an artist journey".

What then?

The passage that comes next is The Artist’s Journey.

On our artist’s journey, we move past Resistance and past self-sabotage. We discover our true selves and our authentic calling, and we produce the works we were born to create. You are an artist too – whether you realise it or not, whether you like it or not – and you have an artist’s journey. Will you live it out? Will you follow your Muse and do the work you were born to do? Ready or not, you are called.

Steven Pressfield

Adapted for the Small Screen

Dan Harmon – Rick and Morty

Dan Harmon built a framework to help us tell stories, a distilled version of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey and both can help tell-all stories.

The Story Circle lays out a kind of narrative arc that’s commonly used by myths from all over the world and emphases how almost all forms of storytelling have a cyclical nature.

Think Community, Rick and Morty, The Simpsons (Guest Writer), even Doctor Strange (Consultant).

It’s an approach that many other writers have since adopted, including IT Crowd creator Graham Linehan.

A crash course

The Story Circle

Adapted for Movies

George Lucas – Star Wars

Since the publication of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell’s theory has been purposely popping up and utilised by a wide variety of modern writers, directors and artists.

With his guidance, countless filmmakers see an image as symbolic, character as archetypal, and narrative as mythic.

Filmmaker George Lucas acknowledged Campbell’s theory in mythology and its influence on Star Wars films.

The mythic structure he learned from Campbell has gone from Lucas’ secret weapon to an industry standard. Just have a look at most studios and franchises. Dare I say all Marvel movies?!

Adapted for Marketing

Donald Miller – Building a Storybrand

Building a Storybrand by Donald Miller is easy to digest, and we are able to build better ways to tell a marketing story.

Miller proposes the use of the Hero’s Journey as the framework for your marketing message and the brand experience of a business.

Ingenious in that it reflects the way our brains works… it’s science… we all love stories! And we all use stories to make sense of the world around us.

Talk about practical – The Hero’s Journey in 7 steps… with homework and a framework.

The Storybrand Framework

Adaption for Branding…?

To tell a great brand story, we must first understand the foundation of storytelling.

Most people know that every story has a beginning, middle and end. What most people don’t know is what goes where.

In brand storytelling, we can start utilising these frameworks to leverage compelling narratives, placing the customer at the heart of the story, stage it with emotional visual media experiences and effectively distribute it across our buyer’s journey to empower their lives and drive business results.

May these story architects guide us on our journey of telling a great story.

Anyone can be a hero if you tell the (brand) story right

Werner Griesel


  • Mythic Worlds, Modern Words: Joseph Campbell on the Art of James Joyce (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell)
  • Essays on a Science of Mythology – Carl G. Jung
  • The Artist’s Journey: The Wake of the Hero’s Journey and the Lifelong Pursuit of Meaning – Steven Pressfield
  • Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen by Donald Miller
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