The Power of Storytelling

The Power of Storytelling

The 7 Storytelling Archetypes And Why You Should Use them in Marketing

It Started With A Story...

Do you remember the first story you were told?

I’ll confess that I don’t, but I do have an “earliest memory.”

I was staying the night at my grandma’s house. She had an old book on the nightstand that her mom used to read to her. It was ragged and dusty as if it had lived in that very place for many years.

I asked my grandma, what’s that? She looked at me with excitement in her eyes, “oh, you don’t want to read that…” In my boyish confidence, I exclaimed, “yes, I do!” (without even knowing what it was…)

She said, “okay, okay…” with a smile. She continued to tell me about the origins of this mystery book.

It was a book of fables that her great-grandmother read to her mom, and her mom read to her. Her mother carried it with her from Germany and passed it on to her. It was an heirloom of sorts.

After that, I remember asking her to read me a story. She said, “Oh honey, it’s getting late…” I exclaimed again, “Please! Just one!” She agreed to juuuust one.

She told me to crawl up on her lap. She knew I couldn’t understand German, of course.

So she began, in English, “once upon a time…”

Just like that, I was whisked away to a magical land with strangers I had never met.

Danger was right around the corner and a timeless moral was waiting at the end of the story.

Looking back on that moment, I remember the emotions that I felt. I was excited, I was happy, I was ready for adventure, and I was even scared for the characters.

What happens to the little girl?

Will she ever discover the mystery?

How will the story end?!

I felt something so real at that moment. It was as if life was happening all around me.

And, indeed, it was. My mind was fully alive and waiting in anticipation.

As I recall that memory, my mind dances from topic to topic.

I think of the power of stories in sales. The power of story in leadership. The power of story in writing. The power of story in movies.

After 15 years in the same industry, though, most often, my mind drifts back to the power of storytelling in marketing.

The Power of Storytelling in Marketing

Story is found everywhere in marketing. It lives in funnels, newsletters, blogs, in brand identities, social media posts, videos, websites, data…and the list goes on. Nothing is beyond its reach.

And yet…

We are often so obsessed with tactics and technology that we miss it. We believe the new upsell funnel will magically translate to millions in sales. We fawn over ChatGPT. We obsess over where we can add more keywords to our website. We mistakenly believe that all of the stuff surpasses the story.

It doesn’t.

Why? Because stories are part of the human experience.

Think of Shakespeare, Alexander The Great, Plato, the Bible, or even your favorite film. These are all different types of stories: some are fact, some are fiction, and some are both. But what is true about all of them is that they resonate through time. Nothing can quiet their reach or their power. If we don’t read them, someone will talk about them. Their core ideas will still impact our lives if we don't know them. That is the power of a story.

Now that we’ve discussed the power of stories let’s talk about how they can be incorporated into your marketing strategy. There are many ways to approach this conversation, but I find that understanding a story's framework is one of the most helpful.

In my experience, that understanding ignites my creativity. It also allows me to conceptualize where stories fit in my strategy.

Below you’ll find the 7 main archetypes that govern storytelling.

I’ve also included examples of how each archetype might be used in a marketing strategy.

The 7 Story Archetypes

  1. Overcoming the Monster
  2. Rags to Riches
  3. The Quest
  4. Voyage and Return
  5. Comedy
  6. Tragedy
  7. Rebirth

1. Overcoming the Monster

Overcoming the Monster is a story archetype where our hero faces off against some terrible monster. This beast can be either human or inhuman. Sometimes, the monster can even be within the hero. Examples of this story archetype would be Harry Potter or The Avengers.

Here’s an idea of how this story could be used in your marketing strategy.

I am a copywriter who is writing a 4 part blog series about our founder. The blog series is about my company’s founder who overcame a severe alcohol addiction to create the #1 recovery program in the nation.

2. Rags to Riches

Rags to Riches is a story archetype where our hero goes from poverty to riches or unsuccessful to successful. A classic example is Cinderella.

Here’s an idea of how this story could be used in your marketing strategy.

I am a videographer who is creating a 5-minute video. The video is about my company’s founder, who was homeless and broke and now owns a multi-million dollar online retailer.

3. The Quest

The Quest is a story archetype where our hero sets out to achieve a specific goal.

Sometimes, our hero is accompanied by companions. Ultimately, they must defeat evil or overcome a series of difficult odds.

Here’s an idea of how this story could be used in your marketing strategy.

I am a social media manager who is creating a series of customer testimonials. I’ve found that a common theme among our home buyers is they faced many problems at other dealerships before finding us. So, I want to highlight their quest for home ownership by telling of their struggle and victory.

4. Voyage and Return

Voyage and Return is a story archetype where our hero travels to another world and makes a transformation before returning. Think of The Wizard of Oz.

Here’s an idea of how this story could be used in your marketing strategy.

I am a public relations manager who is creating and pitching a story of a founder. The founder had risen to great heights of success and prestige. One day, as she was traveling home, she was hit by a semi. She was rushed to the hospital, momentarily died on the operating table, and was ultimately resuscitated. When she recovered, she had a new perspective on life that changed the trajectory of her business.

5. Comedy

Comedy, in the traditional sense, is a story archetype with an absurd set of circumstances. Our hero usually has to go to extreme lengths to achieve victory.

Many times, these stories will include romance or a love interest. Examples of this are Elf, Monty Python, etc.

Here’s an idea of how this story could be used in your marketing strategy.

I am a creative director for a major toy brand. I am creating a holiday campaign that shows the insane lengths that children will go to find the toys that their parents hid.

By the way, the concept above is a callout to my childhood. It was Christmas Eve. My parents locked our presents in a room on the second floor. Unfortunately, I knew one of the gifts was a SEGA Genesis. I couldn’t resist! I wanted it so much that I waited until my parents were asleep, carried my dad’s ladder outside, and climbed to the second-floor window. Luckily the window wasn’t locked and, despite the freezing temperatures, I safely got into the room and opened my toy.

Yeah…I got in a lot of trouble for that one. :)

6. Tragedy

Tragedy is a story archetype where our hero is caught in difficult circumstances. Unfortunately, those circumstances defeat our hero. This story usually starts in a happier place but ends with misery or death. You will see tragedy in stories like Hamlet or Titanic.

Here’s an idea of how this story could be used in your marketing strategy.

I am a brand director who is developing a social media content plan for our grief counseling center. Most of our clientele has lost a loved one, usually an immediate family member, in the last 3 to 6 months. The cause of death is typically suicide or illness.

Note: This is one of the more difficult concepts to display in marketing. It must be done with extreme empathy so you don’t alienate your customer.

7. Rebirth

Rebirth is a story archetype where our hero undergoes a transformation.

Usually, our hero goes through a period where it appears they have been defeated. Classic examples of this story are Beauty and the Beast and A Christmas Carol.

Here’s an idea of how this story could be used in your marketing strategy.

I am a young entrepreneur who opened a gym two years ago. My goal is to help people who are out of shape get their health back. We have many clients who had horror stories of poor nutrition, years without working out, and low self-esteem. Their life transformed after doing our programs.

I don’t have a huge marketing budget, but I am building content around their transformation stories on my website, social media, and blog in a way that shows where they came from and where they are.

The Last Chapter
From the Chauvet Cave in France, where the oldest representation of storytelling can be found, to the blog or video series you view on your smartphone, stories are what bind us together. They are our past, present, and future.

As Tyrion Lanister said, in the final episode of Game of Thrones, “What unites people?

Armies? Gold? Flags? Stories. There’s nothing in the world more powerful than a good story. Nothing can stop it. No enemy can defeat it.”

That quote is as true in your brand's customer journey as it is on a television show.

When you live into that, every piece of your marketing strategy will be better for it.

So, what story does your customer need to hear?

They’re waiting…

Their eyes are open.

Their ears are attuned.

Their mind is alive.

And their hearts are ready.

So, go forth and create. Use the 7 archetypes to build powerful stories that live on for generations. Inject them into your blogs, your ads, your videos, your website, and your social media. Let them stretch far and wide because, when the final curtain falls, they alone will live on in your audience’s mind.


Nick Herrera  |  CMO of Hello Seven|  LinkedIn