You are a proud owner of an Arizona business – although it probably feels like it owns you – and you work tirelessly serving your customers to make it grow. However, it has become increasingly difficult to stand out in what experts are calling the attention economy. Everyone is clamoring to be heard with selfies, 140-character tweets, six-second Vine videos, blogs, and posts on Facebook and LinkedIn. Brands used to control mass media. Now, the masses are the media.
To rise above the cacophony of the attention economy, businesses of all sizes are using the Story Cycle. Based on American mythologist Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey,” the 10-step process is inspired by the story artists of Hollywood, influenced by masters of persuasion, guided by trend spotters, and informed by how the mind grapples for meaning.
The 10-Step Story Cycle
Step 1: Backstory
Where in the world have you have you been, where are you now, and where are you going? The backstory helps you quickly articulate what you want for your brand and its unique position in the market.
Step 2: Hero
Who is your #1 audience – the hero of your brand story – and what do they care about? You can use the same 10-steps of the Story Cycle to create a unique audience persona for each of your target markets.
Step 3: Stakes
What does your hero want as it relates to the product or service you offer, and how does their quest intersect with the goals and aspirations you have for your brand?
Step 4: Disruption
Without change and the conflict it creates in our lives, there is no market opportunity or story. What has changed, is changing, or needs to change in your hero’s life – and in the market – to make your offering timely, relevant, and irresistible? Are you instigating the change (being disruptive) or responding to something that has changed?
Step 5: Antagonists
What are the obstacles and antagonists – both external and internal – that your hero must overcome on their journey with your brand?
Step 6: Mentor
What is your brand’s unique position, promise, and personality and how will it help your hero on their quest? Of the 12 fundamental archetypes, which one best characterizes your brand?
Step 7: Journey
What does the customer interaction with your brand look like and what are the success and failures they will experience along the way? How might your customer experience buyer’s remorse and how will you help them avoid or overcome it?
Step 8: Victory
When do you anticipate your customer will experience their first real success with your brand, how will they know it, and how will you be there to celebrate it with them?
Step 9: Moral
What is the moral of your story that connects the values you and your brand share with your customers?
Step 10: Ritual
Wash, rinse, repeat: How will you create such compelling customer engagement that they adopt a ritualistic use of your product or service?
The Story Cycle naturally plays to how our brains are hardwired to create meaning out of the stories we encounter. So, while technological advancements and our narcissistic race to get noticed is causing the masses to publish and broadcast blips and bytes of information, I find it ironic that the ancient structure of story is still the most proven and powerful way to connect with people and create abundance in everyone’s lives.
As you can see, the story is NOT about you or your brand. It is about your customer. Your brand is the mentor in the story, the Obi Wan Kenobi to your customer’s Luke Skywalker, the true hero of the journey. The more you understand and empathize with your customers’ stories, and how you can mentor them in their quest for a better life, the more abundant growth you will experience in all aspects of your business.