What the Hero’s Journey can – and can’t – do for you

A young women sits on a cliff looking at a long winding road

What the Hero’s Journey can – and can’t – do for you

July 19, 2022


July 19, 2022


What the Hero’s Journey can – and can’t – do for you


Aled Herbert
Content director

Aled oversees all editorial as our content director. He loves a good story – which is no surprise, as he started out in children’s publishing.

Here at Collective Content, we tell a lot of stories. Or maybe we only tell one. It depends on who you ask.

Joseph Campbell, an American writer and literature professor, popularised what he called The Hero’s Journey. He argued that many (if not all) stories share a common template. This involves a hero who goes on an adventure, overcomes adversity and emerges from the experience transformed.

And once you learn about the idea, you can see it almost everywhere. Star Wars: A New Hope is a near perfect fit, but the Hero’s Journey is not just for Jedi. The Wizard of Oz is another classic example, alongside The Matrix, The Lion King and even The Goonies, albeit with different journeys and different protagonists.

Of course, not every journey is literally a trip. The Karate Kid is a hero’s journey, though Daniel-san learns to wax on and wax off while never leaving his neighbourhood.

But what does this have to do with your business and your content marketing strategy?

You’re the hero of your story

You have a story to tell. And you are – or your company is – the hero of that story. You’re the one who attempts a journey, faces challenges, then emerges transformed. That, by the way, is a really simplified, three-step summary of the hero’s journey. Campbell originally laid out 17 steps (see table). But he wasn’t creating marketing content for your business.

The Hero’s journey

When brainstorming this blog, Tony and I did our research and found out an enormous number of agencies are talking about using The Hero’s Journey structure to tell your story and create your content. Sort of proves Campbell was right about there being just one way to tell a good story, doesn’t it?

Errr… no.

Campbell was studying literature and proposing a theory of how it is created and how to criticise it. He was looking for some universally applicable truths about storytelling across world cultures. How well he did in the fields of literature and literary criticism is outside our scope here. But I’ll say that he didn’t create a magical checklist that, if you just follow it, will make a great blog, case study or ebook. If someone tells you otherwise, be sceptical.

On the other hand, I’ve seen people say that you can’t apply the principles of The Hero’s Journey to your marketing content. That there isn’t enough there. Either not enough scope, drama or change. That’s another view to be approached with caution.

The art and science of content marketing

The truth is there is no formula or checklist to guarantee compelling, engaging content. Understanding your overall story, identifying the key parts and finding (not faking) the drama in your story are all things we start with.

But we’ll also try to look at your story from different viewpoints. We often see companies that can’t recognise the scope of their achievements until they are seen from the outside.

At Collective Content, we love stories and we love telling them. We know about The Hero’s Journey. When and where it makes sense, we’ll use principles from it. But we also know that we can’t just go through the motions. Your story must feel right, needing a tailored approach. We’d love to take that journey with you, so please get in touch if you’d like to plan it with us.