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3 Ways of Condensing the Mythological Hero’s Journey to Make Engaging Videos

Allow me to take a risk by asking you to look at the chart below. Chances are you’ll only skim it. That’s okay. I did too.

Wikipedia is invaluable, in my opinion, for getting straight to the nuts and bolts of a subject. For deeper digs, I’ll seek out direct sources, spend time in the library. But who am I kidding — I don’t have time for a whole lot of deep reading these days. The majority of us don’t.

We don’t have time for annoying advertisements of yesteryear or intrusive video ads of yesterday’s lengths either!

But please do take a quick look at this chart, because it contains a few storytelling elements we marketers can use. Humans have been drawn to myth and sharing stories since the dawn of time; story brings us together and helps us solve problems both personal and universal.

The definition of myth begins with: “A traditional story…

Hero's journey table

Scholar and mythologist Joseph Campbell summarized the above seventeen Hero’s Journey steps this way:

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.

(Geek alert: George Lucas was a fan of Campbell’s seminal book, from which the above quote was taken, The Hero With a Thousand Faces!)

But how does this hero stuff translate to marketers now, as we scramble to keep up with the overwhelming demand for social media videos that stick out, that stick, that matter, and that convey our brand’s mission?

  • Hero or heroine ➔ Your customer/your audience
  • Departs from everyday world ➔ Leaves behind obstacles, problems, headaches, challenges
  • Ventures into the unknown ➔ Obtains magical cure-all for common-world issues
  • Returns and shares newfound special power ➔ “Reborn” hero or heroine is wiser, happier, younger, healthier, wealthier, more productive, etc. ~ and everyone in the vicinity benefits

Okay, but how do we crunch this decades-old hero’s journey material into what we know works best for attracting and holding the attention of our Instagram and Twitter users — very short videos?

Ideal length for a video Infographic


Before Mapping Any Journey

Before we get to condensing the eternally meaningful elements of myth to fit our modern-day need for 30 to 45-seconds long videos, let’s assume the following:

We already know our audience to some degree. We know:

  • What their core values are
  • What do they do for work and for pleasure
  • Where they are located (where they live, work, shop, eat, vacation/try to disappear)
  • How they like to define and present themselves socially
  • Who they associate with (who is in their immediate IRL community and their online URL one)
  • What information they are willing to share with the public and with our marketing team
  • How much they are willing to spend

Knowing your audience is of course KEY to making videos that will speak to them. That said, if you are a new-to-the-scene brand and don’t have all of the bullet points above analyzed and answered, that’s okay too, because you have to start somewhere and you have to start now — you have to start making videos stat!

Know Your Audience: How to Conduct Market Research for Making Effective Videos from

Myth on a Mission: Less is More

Making social media videos is not as hard as you might think. You have myth — and thus the power of human history and human nature — on your side.

You have tools like

And you have me, here, reminding you that once you have begun to define your audience, you’ll be on your way to attracting them to your service, product, or resource.

START CREATING ENGAGING VIDEOS WITH WAVEAn easy-to-use tool to make videos in-house 

In short videos, in general, you want to:

  • Start in media-res (middle of the action)
  • Deliver a single clear plot line
  • Use a few simple props
  • Cast a very limited number of characters (one hero or heroine, and his or her closest “tribe members”)

In terms of drafting your story, remember you want to:

  • HOOK your audience emotionally
  • ENGAGE your audience by ENLARGING possibilities
  • ENCOURAGE your audience to act (make a purchase, “Like” you on Facebook, etc.)

Three Mini-Myth Structures for Turning Your Consumers Into (Your Brand’s) Heroes and Heroines

Once you’re set with basic insights, tools, and skills, you’re ready to begin drafting your story — you’re ready to write a short script and prepare the accompanying storyboard.

Here are three 3-point story structures that we at Animatron have found to be very effective in keeping social media videos short, sweet, and compelling.

Mirroring the Hero(ine)

1. Human face reveals a targeted emotion
2. Challenge/obstacle/problem
3. Solution

In this 33-second retro commercial for Calgon Bath Soap, our heroine is front and center, and her face tightens with amplifying angst as the challenges of her everyday life — the threats to her peace and sanity—tally up behind her. It is easy to see ourselves in her — who doesn’t have to juggle work, family, chores and responsibilities on a regular basis? (Oh, and please pardon the quality of this video, it’s almost as old as I am.)

Calgon did such an amazing job with its branding that you still hear people using the slogan “Calgon, take me away!” today, whether or not they (or you) know where it came from. That plea, “Calgon, take me away!” enlarges our heroine’s world, it calls to the other world of possibility, of luxury, the supernatural place where bliss reigns. The tub our heroine soaks in appears to be in Greece. Talk about mythological!

And though technically this video does not show our heroine’s return to the real world, we infer that after drying off, she will feel reborn — softer, more refreshed — and better equipped to face the traffic, the boss, the baby, and the dog again, tomorrow!

LOL’ing With the Hero(ine)

1. No faces, only words
2. Challenge/misunderstanding/miscommunication
3. Solution

This Spotify video could be made for pennies, proving true that one of the best things in life — humor — is free. Mom and Dad are the heroes of this tale, and they purposefully step out of their usual world and usual role as taskmasters to enter a playful space—working their shared history of music to bewilder their bewildering teenager. By the end of the video, Mom and Dad aren’t just issuing a command, they are fully rocking! There is a subtle nod to, to the fact that these parents are of the 80s, but completely capable now of mastering the amazing technology that is modern texting.

Spotify quickly illuminates the distance between two generations, and then just as quickly provides the “bridge” to close that gap: Music, shared via an affordable family plan.

Though we literally do not see one human face — not a guitar, no stadium bleachers — we get a kick out of this mini-myth. We think of our own “embarrassingly old weird songs,” and wonder if we could stay young, or be reborn, by listening to what our kids listen to. This Spotify spot proves that music and humor, like scent — which we haven’t quite figured out how to use in video (yet) — can spark meaningful memories and feelings.

FYI: With and our vast bank of fonts, sound clips, and fx, you could crank out a dozen “Spotify-esque” videos in one day.

START CREATING ENGAGING VIDEOS WITH WAVEAn easy-to-use tool to make videos in-house 

Pulling for the Hero(ine)

1. Presenting “the other/the underdog”
2. Challenge/obstacle/problem
3. Solution

Underdogs: With luck and determination, they will prevail! Though we don’t consciously see ourselves as underdogs, wise marketers know that deep inside our puny human souls, we’re full of self-doubt. Our FOMO can be used against us. We all suffer from Imposter Syndrome. We’re all too old, young, hungry, lazy, inept, ineffective, angry, sad, overweight, underweight, stupid, weak, uncaring, or poor. Marketing, it’s true, picks and pokes at all of our psychological scars.

[bctt tweet=”That said, most of us are working toward more socially responsible branding. More aware, authentic, and mindful messaging. “]

We will always cheer on underdogs, because we see some aspect — past or present — of ourselves in them. Or, as another strong but minimally budgeted ad campaign shows, we simply empathize. Fundamentally, humans do care and given a way to do so, we will help.

The underdog might be so far from who we are or what we experience directly — the underdog might literally be a big cat — but the problem and challenge their condition presents to us is a moral one. The solution then is to send money to a cause, to volunteer, or to better educate ourselves.

Marketing as a Carrier of Myths

Some say there are no original stories left to tell. We all repeat, in one way or another, origin myths, hero’s journeys, and so on. We adapt our stories to the times—Spotify uses nothing but text messaging and a song to illustrate cross-generational tastes and miscommunication.

We adapt our stories to our audience, but essentially, we are setting a hook, connecting to our audience via what we ourselves know to be engaging content, and saying, “Hey, we can help! Walk this way!”

The social media environment is young and thriving. It takes imagination, planning, and a penchant for taking risks to stand above the branding crowd and be heard; it doesn’t take thousands of dollars, famous actors, a green room, and an hour.

Give your audience a face, a sound, or a cause they can get behind, and help them find you—meet them at a common point, and then stick together through the journey.

Hero's journey

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