Most business stories take the form of a quest
Take origin stories, for example.
Once upon a time, way back in the past, someone saw an opportunity to help, to fill a gap in the market, make the world a better place and make some money while they were at it.
So, they started a business. They knew it wouldn’t be easy, but they believed in what they were doing and in its potential to improve lives. That faith, along with hard work and dedication saw them through the tough times and knock backs, the dark moments of despair and failure, helping them overcome all these obstacles until they succeeded and became the business we all know today.
Okay, so you can take that thumbnail sketch and apply it to the business behemoth of your choice. Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Disney, Ford, Virgin. It’s a classic against-the-odds origin story. Almost despite ourselves, we’re cheering for these ‘underdogs’. I will argue in the next piece that you should be looking for every opportunity to use it in your own business story, because as we’ve established, stories land.
Story is innate
We are born with a sense of what it is and how it works, even if we don’t consciously realise it. We come fully equipped with a sense of beginnings and middles and ends, of good guys and bad guys, of wise mentors and fools and happy endings and sad endings. We know when a story works for us and when it doesn’t.
Why is that?
Well, reams have been written on the subject. But for my money, it goes back to when we lived in caves. Life was dangerous. The moment you stepped out of your cave, you were likely to be eaten by something. So you figured out ways to prevent being eaten. You then came home and shared this with your family, friends and tribe. The places to avoid, the safest time of day to go to this place and that to fish or hunt, the most effective weapons and how to use them. These were lessons in how to stay alive. They were conveyed in the form of stories where the stakes could not be higher.
“ This is what happened to me today. This is how I nearly got eaten. But I did this and survived to come back here and tell the tale. So I suggest that when you go out tomorrow, you do the same .”
This, for me, is why we just ‘get’ stories.
I want you to consider this:
Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter are the heroes of two of the most popular and successful stories of all time.
They have quite a bit in common, each telling the story of a character who thinks they are normal but then discovers that they are ‘chosen’. Their lives are disrupted as they set off on a quest to defeat an enemy. Much like cave dwellers of old, they are forced to travel through dangerous territory in order to get what they need to survive, undergoing a relentless series of life-threatening tests and challenges. These must be overcome in order for them to defeat the evil forces set against them and claim the mantle of greatness.
Fair to say, these two and the stories of their quests really land.
Replace Luke or Harry with a business or brand as the protagonist and there is obvious resonance with any origin story you ever heard.
But what happens when you make the CUSTOMER the protagonist?
Well then story becomes a powerful marketing tool. The customer becomes the hero of the story, the cave dweller who must venture out to find food for their family. They are the one who faces disruption in their lives or who encounters some kind of problem. They must undertake a journey past all obstacles to solve it.
And who is going to be right there alongside them as they do all that, equipping them with what they need to succeed? Who is going to help them see off Voldemort and play the role of ‘the force’?
That’s right, you are. Your company, your business, your service, your product.
And the tougher the journey, the bigger the obstacles, the harder the quest, the more they are going to need you and value you.
There is an essential component to all of this, something without which the story just will not work.
And that something is pain.
The threat of death, whether literal or figurative.
And pain is what we are going to talk about next time. Can’t wait.