Written by Jason Dojc on March 20, 2014
in Healthcare Marketing

Last week while wandering the trade floor of the DX3 Conference in Toronto, I stumbled into Leslie Ehm’s session, Storytelling for Humans. Upon hearing the title, I figured this was going to be a rehash of the dramatic narrative I learned in high school where every story has a beginning, middle, climax, and denouement (which is really just a fancy word for ending). But it turned out to be something far more profound and practical.

She started by saying that every story has a hero and a villain. Right away my mind shifted to Grade 10 English class and Joseph Campbell’s deconstruction of the hero story found in all world mythology. “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.” Come to think of it, sounds like the plot of many commercials where the product heroically embarks on a quest to solve the problem that plagued the consumer.

But the product shouldn’t be the hero. The key to an effective brand story, Ehm, continued, is when customer is the hero and the product is the catalyst that enables the customer hero to embark on his/her quest to defeat the problem the product solves, i.e. the villain. Put another way, the product doesn’t slay the dragon, the customer slays the dragon using the product.

You can see this working with a variety of CPG brands. For a lot of sports drinks, the athlete is the hero, thirst is the villain, and the drink is the catalyst in the athlete’s quest for getting faster, higher, and stronger. For a household cleanser the hero is the home dweller, the villain is dirt, the cleanser is the catalyst for the home dweller’s quest for a sparkling clean space.

Ok, now let’s try a more regulated industry…healthcare. Could this storytelling model be used for big pharma or medical devices?  Absolutely. The hero is the patient, valiantly fighting a formidable villain, the condition, ailment, or disease. The catalyst in this fight would be the drug or device that sees the patient through his/her quest for recovery and a better quality of life.

Tell the story right, and your brands will live happily ever after 🙂


Image credit cc Martin Sotirov via Flickr

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