The voyage and return storytelling archetype is very similar to the quest , though the parameters of this archetype are more difficult to fit to most companies. In voyage and return, the protagonist must leave everything they’ve ever known to explore another realm and acquire experience, knowledge, and skills they wouldn’t have gained any other way. They then return to their origins and use their newfound experience in the process of resuming their previous existence.

The key difference from the quest archetype is the purpose. In quest, the desire is to end a pain point by reaching a final outcome, so there’s a definite start and end, with the end solving the problem from the beginning. Voyage and return is more about the knowledge gained through the process, and in the end, that knowledge expands the hero’s horizons in ways that help better their lives and those of others. The voyage itself is working through pain points to overcome them, not ending them entirely. Experience gained is what betters the hero, and when they return to their starting point, that experience has changed who they are. It’s not so much point A to point B as in the quest, but that the voyage itself gives the hero new perspective when they return to point A. Both archetypes are about transformation, but voyage and return is open-ended, and the possibilities upon the return create a whole new future.

In the US Armed Forces advertising campaigns, enlistees quite literally leave their homes, are put through rigorous training, sent to all corners of the world, and when they return, they have skills they couldn’t have learned any other way that translate to almost any industry in the private sector.

Voyage And Return In Your Marketing Strategy

There are, however, few industries that can make voyage and return work for their products or services. One such industry that can, however, is the massive $60 billion weight loss industry. On the show The Biggest Loser, contestants endure a boot camp type atmosphere to become the winning contestant, the one who amasses the greatest amount of weight loss. While the show contestants’ voyages are literal—they leave their homes to live on the show’s set—the rest of the weight loss industry and their potential clients don’t actually leave home. The voyage portion of the services and products a weight loss company peddles is more likely to be jaunts to the gym or maybe a weekend retreat to learn the ins and outs of a new diet and exercise regime. Maybe the voyage is even digital, with the target audience training through use of in-home DVDs and the journey they experience is metaphorical.

For The Digital World, The Sky’s The Limit

You don’t need to be a purveyor of virtual reality products to embark on a voyage and return marketing campaign digitally. Part of the lure of the gaming industry is putting their target consumer in the thick of the world they’ve created so players can participate in a voyage and return made up entirely of pixels. As with the other archetypes, casting the end user in the role of the hero serves to bridge the gap between company and consumer. People spend untold amounts of time and money in pursuit of entertainment options that take them out of their mundane or stressful world to experience something new and exciting. Hollywood gives us 2 ½ hours of living vicariously every time a new movie is released in theaters. Gamers take weeks to build up characters in voyage and return games to increase their skills, powers, and rack up points and loot, equipment, or treasure. Authors spend months or maybe years creating worlds for readers, who are increasingly buying their home library in ebook format.

If your industry has the entertainment draw, a voyage and return marketing strategy is very powerful, and for more reasons than simple enjoyment of a story. Not only do people as a society need down time to rejuvenate their focus and creativity, entertainment in the form of music, books, art, and theater has fostered inspiration for centuries. Your product may have its own story to take the consumer on a journey for the purpose of entertaining them, but it could also inspire the next generation of actors, writers, and musicians whose voyage may be far greater than simply reading or watching characters live out their story. And that generation’s story of achieving success in an industry where talent is king goes on to inspire the following generation, and so on. Not only are you creating fictional heroes and role models in books and movies or on stage, you’re bringing real ones to the masses via the actors and programmers and writers in a cycle that feeds itself.

There’s a real potential with voyage and return to change lives. Schools do it. The military does it. Nutrition and fitness experts do it. Hollywood and publishing does it. If your company has such a promise for your target audience, voyage and return is the way to go, giving your market the inspiration they need to do more, to be more. And if, through your product or service, they achieve that, so much the better. They become one more success story or testimonial you can utilize for future generations to say, “They became great at their chosen craft. So can I.”