Tag Archive for: hero narrative

Recently, a business leader asked how to make his presentations more engaging. As the owner of a networking monitoring company, he typically started his presentations by talking about solutions, network optimization and cloud architecture. I recommended he scratch all that, and instead tell a story his audience could imagine themselves dealing with. To his surprise, audience engagement and prospect interest skyrocketed. 

Why are stories so effective?

Here’s a not-so-well-kept secret: we humans are biologically wired for stories. Really. Studies show, stories engage us on a systemic level

  • When you listen to a story that references color, the part of your brain that processes color lights up; in your mind, you can “see” the colors. 
  • If the story involves sensory issues – like the feel of something, or distinct sounds – the part of your brain that processes sensory lights up, and it’s as if you could feel or hear those parts.
  • When you listen to a story that involves motion, the part of your brain that processes motion fires up, and your heart rate accelerates. 

Not only this, but stories actually alter our body chemistry as we’re hearing the story:

  • As the protagonist encounters conflict, the listener’s body creates cortisol, the stress chemical, creating heightened duress and attention. 
  • As the story unfolds, the body also produces dopamine (the reward chemical) which keeps the listener engaged in the story for the outcome.
  • And last but not least, during the story the body produces oxytocin, bonding the listener to the protagonist and the outcome. The power of story is that it can transport the listener into the story; it’s as if they’re living it themselves. 

All this engagement from simply telling a story? It’s true. Storytelling is simply the most effective communications medium — ever. Which is why at Magnetic Current, we use storytelling strategy when branding businesses, to make client brands magnetic to the people they need to reach.

What is storytelling strategy?

Whether you’re giving a presentation about your products, writing a case study, or delivering your company’s brand story: there’s a strategy for telling stories. In our experience, the best story strategy for B2B brands borrows heavily from the hero narrative structure, constructed by famed mythologist Joseph Campbell

We recommend the following structural storytelling elements in your brand story: 

Source: Magnetic Current, 2020.
  1. Context: You want to describe enough about the situation so the listener is transported. The more details – visual, motion, auditory cues – the better.
  2. Present the Protagonist: create an opportunity for the listener to immediately identify with the protagonist. The listener should understand and relate to the protagonist, and be challenged when…
  3. The Protagonist faces Conflict. Conflict is everything in a story. There is no story without conflict! It’s essential to any story, and certainly to the hero narrative, because it’s the turning point where our hero realizes she has a problem, attempts to fix it, and cannot. Frustrated, she’s about to give up when…
  4. She Encounters A Guide who has The Key. A new character appears, someone who helps her see things differently, and offers her a solution.
  5. Resolution: With this help, she masters her conflict. She returns from her “journey”, triumphant, having overcome a seemingly insurmountable challenge and…
  6. Denouement: is able to go on and do great things. 

We love this simple formula for B2B brands – it’s highly effective in showing (not telling) how your offering can truly help your customers overcome their problems and emerge better than before.

Other elements for storytelling strategy

The things to remember about storytelling in business: while it’s your story, it’s important to remember who undergoes the transformation, who benefits in your narrative, and who is rewarded by your offering. Your customers. They are always the hero in your story. Resist the temptation to turn your story into a company press release. Stay on script, stay in the background and let the flow of your story position you in the right light.

As well, you want your brand archetype to emerge as part of the story, and in tone and style. What is an archetype? It’s really the use of psychological motifs and metaphors in branding, and is a powerful way to further draw connection with your audience. For more about archetypes, we recommend this article.

Also, add the right touches to make your story compelling. Start with a great hook. A startling statistic, a vivid description, a compelling question or a gripping statement: you want to grab your listener’s attention. For more on hooks, this article is a great read. 

Finally, we love open loops to build intrigue and keep readers engaged. Open loops are when information is presented in the story, but not immediately explained. A shotgun is introduced in the first scene – why? We learn the protagonist can talk to animals – why? Our brains are wired for conclusions, and when the answers aren’t provided, the brain engages, waiting until the answer appears. Open loops are a clever way to keep your audience curious. You can read more about open loops here

How can I use these elements to tell my business’ story?

With this map in front of you, study your business. Begin designing your business’ brand story by answering the following questions: 

  • What is the context for your customers?
  • Who is the ideal protagonist?
  • What problem do they encounter that causes them to stumble? 
  • (You are the guide, and your business solution is the key)
  • What would resolution look like, in terms of solving the problem? 
  • And finally, what denouement would you end the story with?

Now, put together the pieces of your brand story. As an example: if you are the networking monitoring company mentioned above, the context could be a situation or event where network uptime is essential. Say, an event like CyberMonday. The protagonist would be a business that depends on being online for revenue purposes: an online retailer. The conflict: their website goes down. The guide and the key? That’s the networking monitoring company and their solution that never-ever goes down because of triple redundancy measures. The resolution is that the guide and the key help the online retailer fix their site so they never go down again. Denouement could be: next holiday season, they triple online sales. 

Once you know your brand story, you can use storytelling for many customer-facing interactions: presentations, case studies, even as a conversation starter to talk about your business solutions and how you help make your customers’ lives better. If you need help with your brand story, connect with us, we’re here to help make your business magnetic to success. 

You’ve decided to do some marketing to highlight how your offering can help customers achieve their goals. And you’ve decided –  rather than using charts, facts or statistics – that you want to show people the impact you can bring with case studies. 

So how do you make your case studies a great read?


First, the case for case studies.

Case studies are far and away the most compelling and effective communication tool to convert prospects into buyers. Over 77% of B2B buyers cited testimonials and case studies as the most influential type of content in their decision making. B2C businesses show similar results as well. And they’re not just helpful for businesses; university students learn subjects faster and retain ideas longer when material is presented in a case study form.  

Why? Because case studies are essentially stories, and our brains are wired for story. 

Case studies tell a success story, walking the reader through a real-life scenario they can relate to. Readers get to meet their peer (the customer you’re highlighting), and see the challenges that customer is facing (challenges that should be strikingly similar to the challenges your readers are facing). They get to see how your offering helps solve the problem and the benefit your offering brings. They can grasp the impact your offering has had on the customer –  saved them money, improved their productivity, reduced downtime, accelerated production…whatever results you have to share. 

So how do I write spellbinding case studies?

Just like a story, good case studies have a beginning, a middle, and an end, as well as a protagonist – your customer – overcoming a problem and achieving their objective, just like the main character of a story. 

With a good case study, by the end of the story the reader should be able to visualize themselves as the hero of that story. They should be able to relate to the problems of your featured customer, and see themselves achieving their own goals by using your product or service.

The most compelling approach involves the hero narrative structure, constructed by famed mythologist Joseph Campbell. The hero narrative almost always follows the following formula:

  1. The hero is going along great, until s/he suffers a loss / experiences a serious problem.
  2. S/he attempts to resolve issues via the usual means, but fails time and again.
  3. The hero goes on a journey of sorts, and along the way, discovers an ally or new approach.
  4. With guidance from the ally, the hero overcomes tremendous odds to resolve the problem.
  5. The hero returns triumphant, having learned something powerful; life is better than before.

Why this model works: 

The hero narrative is a classic way to take your reader through a formula that lays out how your product is the solution, in a way that your brain likes. The order of events and the process by which the information is revealed not only makes sense to us, our brains anticipate and desire and expect stories to unfold in this order.

This formula can work for technology companies offering digital transformation solutions and it can work for Consumer Packaged Goods companies selling laundry detergent. And, this is the formula for every major action / thriller Hollywood movie. From Diehard to Mission Impossible to Aquaman, the whole Marvel Superheroes series and Jason Bourne, they all follow this formula for a reason: it works.

How to make your case studies more compelling:

  • Make sure the reader can see themselves as the protagonist;
  • Numbers / statistics to cite impact;
  • Customer testimonials or quotes;
  • Clear before and after transformation impact.

Watch outs:

  1. While it’s tempting to think of your case study as basically a company press release, it’s not. A case study is also not an advertisement. Good case studies are about your customer’s journey, not your company. Most case studies out there are instantly forgettable crap because marketers harp on about how great their company is and they forget to actually follow the formula.

  2. When it comes to effective case studies, show, don’t tell. Your goal is to place the reader as the protagonist (The Hero) and narrate what transpired, so don’t slide into claims. Show how your product impacted the customer problem. Doing this boosts the credibility of your case study: it’s not about you, you’re removed from the story and simply describing what happened and the impact your offering had.

  3. In your case studies, your customer is the protagonist. Which means your customer is The Hero. So you cannot be. You are the guide who helps them along on their journey to succeed. But don’t be bummed; being the guide is a really powerful role. You’re Dumbledore in Harry Potter. Morpheus in The Matrix. Jack Dawson in Titanic. Nigel in Devil Wears Prada. The Terminator in T2. You get my drift: you’re the enabler, the one who incites transformation and helps the protagonist succeed (which is what you want your business to be seen as, as well). 

Over to you: how compelling are your case studies? We hope this post gives you some ideas for how to make them work harder for you. We also write case studies for our clients, so if that’s of interest, let’s connect and set up a time to chat.