While quests can and most often do have monsters, defeating them is only part of the goal for this storytelling archetype. Did you ever read J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic, The Lord of the Rings? This is a prime example of a Quest, where the goal is to destroy the One Ring while avoiding or defeating many forms of evil. The quest archetype is a dangerous or challenging journey the hero must undertake to acquire or destroy an important object or reach a destination. It’s only at the conclusion of the story do we realize that, while the object acquisition or the arrived at destination was critical, the journey is what brings the hero—and therefore the audience—the most satisfaction.
Why The Quest Is Successful As a Company Story
The interesting thing about the quest story is that it’s so big, so encompassing of its hero and the world they live in, that it can very effectively include elements of the other archetypes. That’s what makes the quest archetype a great tool in marketing strategy—the hero is sympathetic to the audience in layers of growing complexity. We often think, “My my, what else can this poor soul endure to reach their goal?” And just when all seems hopeless, that there’s no way the hero will prevail, they find some inner strength, a hidden cache of determination to pull everything out in the end.
But in terms of using the quest for your marketing strategy, you have to be careful how you handle your plan if it includes elements of multiple archetypes.
It’s easy to muddy the message and lose the thread if it gets too big. But that’s another topic for this 7 Storytelling Archetypes in Marketing series.
Inspiring Your Audience To Fill-In-The-Quest For Themselves
As with overcoming the monster, it is generally best to cast your target audience members in the role of the hero for the quest you’re sending them on. Some of the biggest corporate names market their products very, very well with this in mind. Take Nike for example. Selling athletic apparel appeals to a wide audience, and statistically, that audience is at varying stages of their quest, and perhaps more interestingly, on entirely different quests:
- training for marathons or triathlons
- a major weight loss journey
- participating in extreme sports
- dedicating themselves to becoming an elite athlete like an Olympian or professional
Nike has managed to inspire their audience with what amounts to a choose-your-own-adventure journey, with different end goals that all include the same thing: using Nike apparel on their quest to succeed. People consider Nike to be one of the top brands of athletic apparel in the world, and with elite athletes using their products, it’s easier to convince someone who’s joining a gym for the first time that if they have Nike shoes or training clothes, there’s one less obstacle to overcome in their quest. Everyone knows you can’t run a marathon wearing flip flops.
Forging A Partnership
The best thing about the quest archetype is its clear casting, with the end user as the hero, which easily lends itself to the forging of a partnership with your company. You don’t want to take the quest for your consumers; you want to enable then to take up the quest themselves using your products and services.
By setting yourself up as a necessary means to an end—and the more ends you can help with, the better—you’re giving your consumers a compelling reason to partner with you through your products or services.
- A grocer promising not only quality products on their shelves but a staff that knows everything about those products can provide shoppers with the knowledge they may need to improve their diets, throw a dinner party to wow investors in a new venture, or feed an army of ravenous teenagers.
- A bookstore has untold means of taking readers on quests, through self-improvement via the knowledge gained from books, or the escapism of reading fictional quests others have written.
- A furniture company can provide the comfortable and functional surroundings one might need if they’re opening or redesigning a new office.
There are myriad ways to bill your business as a member of your consumers’ fellowship in whatever quest they’re embarking on. By keeping it real, making it about the target consumer turned hero, and forging that partnership, you’re instilling in them a sense of camaraderie that they’re not alone on their journey, that you can help keep them on the right track, reaching milestone after milestone. Putting your business in their minds as the tool they need to accomplish their goals, you’re in a position to get them wondering, “Could I really do this?”
That moment of “what if,” when the road of possibility opens before them, is the moment you need to make them see, whispering in their ear, “Yes. Yes you can do this. And we can help.”