Welcome to adventure and the world of marketing.
Maybe my son has been watching it too much lately, but as I write this, I can help but think about Sesame Street. So in true analogous fashion: “The word on the street is Monomyth.” Today we’ll be looking at your company’s user journey using the monomyth model.
The term monomyth – coined by the late and world reknowned mythologist Joseph Campbell – is a word used to describe the tendency for literary epics to have congruent story arcs. For our purposes, think of it as the uncommon hero’s common journey. It’s a specific narrative pattern found time after time in the stories of cultures spanning every continent and centuries. Think Odysseus, Gilgamesh, Hercules.
They all go through similar yearning, reluctance, acceptance, embarkation, evaluation, and often repetition.
Marketers can use the monomyth narrative for everything from crafting brand messaging to designing user flows, traffic patterns and lead generation.
“The User with a Thousand Faces”
The hero’s journey structure is so familiar most of us don’t even notice it. Spiderman, Luke Skywalker, Nemo, and Katniss all undertake the hero’s journey; and so can your audience. In the words of Campbell himself:
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.
Campbell calls this universal story “the hero with a thousand faces.” When faced with the challenge of creating compelling customer experiences, remember that your users have a thousand faces too. The hero’s journey isn’t about taking a one-size-fits-all approach to conversion paths; it’s about taking a deeply resonant narrative and uniquely applying it to each user segment.
Have your User’s Choose Their Own Journey.
Neil Patrick Harris, of “Doogie Howser, MD” lore (and many acclaimed roles since) has recently published an autobiography in which his readers can choose their own path through the story of his life. In this interactive age full of mobile apps, video games, and subscriptions to streaming movies, what a genius way to encourage engagement with something as mundane as a plain ol’ book. The subtle irony is that almost all of the prepublication marketing was done by offering advertisements online. It fed fans multiple interactive ad experiences and trailers. Through this variety of enticement, a broader audience was able to be reach, assuredly impacting book sales (even if it is the digital kind).
Optimizing multiple, unique user flows is an exercise in big picture thinking. You’ll drill down into the endless details of testing landing page graphics, registration form wording, email timing, and call-to-action placement later. First you need to put yourself in your users’ shoes and map out the unique journeys to be found within your marketing.
The goal of conversion optimization is to move visitors from their first point of contact (might be an email link or landing page) to purchase, subscription, or membership. To translate this into the language of the hero’s journey, we want to move them from their first “call to adventure” to a triumphant return.
How can you put visitors in charge of their journeys (i.e., their paths through your site) so they become deeply invested in your company story?
Three Stages of the User’s Journey
The stages of the hero’s journey as outlined by Joseph Campbell have striking parallels to the conversion cycle. I will introduce the three stages today.
“Call to Adventure”
In the hero’s journey, the main character is living a seemingly ordinary life when suddenly an event happens to the hero, or he or she receives new information that changes everything. This information is a calling our hero to set out into the unknown in search of something more. (Think Luke Skywalker when he comes back to his Aunt and Uncle’s farm to find it destroyed, and his family murdered.)
As digital marketers, it is our goal to issue a call to action that would change how your customers see your brand.
Here’s a tangible example: For Mother’s Day, RedEnvelope created a #WhatMomWants campaign and partnered with bloggers to write sponsored posts featuring $500 gift card giveaways. Blog readers were asked to leave comments, follow RedEnvelope on social media accounts, tweet with the hashtag, and visit the company’s website. This call to action offered strong incentive for a simple first step from visitors, and activated a whole network of popular lifestyle bloggers to rep the brand. Followers of Whoorl trust her take on everything from beauty to parenting, and the #WhatMomWants campaign got the blogger to help shape how people see RedEnvelope.
When visitors encounter your brand for the first time, your content should attempt to cast their lives and needs in a new light, coming almost like a revelation, and not merely information. The user may refuse your call at first, but if you can strike them with a bit of insight, or introduce them to a new solution, your message will stick with them.
After the hero accepts the call to adventure, they are commonly challenged by a journey of trials. These tests often initiate the hero, and annoint him/her, through new experiences, in a new version of their identity.
This may seem counter intuitive for my analogy, because no marketer has aspirations of challenging their customers. In fact, it is sort of our job description to minimize the challenges of connecting with our brands. Nevertheless, in this case, we as marketers are not actually installing those challenges because all visitors already bring their own with them on their journey. Cautious users may need you to help them overcome a perceived risk in the conversion process. Other users may have longstanding relationships with your competitors and may need to be persuaded away. Still others may even debate the value of your product or service with themselves or with another decision maker in the household or company.
An AWESOME Example: XAPP Media developed an innovative way to help digital radio listeners overcome the conversion friction in audio ads. Typically, when you hear a radio ad, you have to stop what you’re doing and get to a store or computer to take a next step. With Web radio, you may even see a pop-up link to click on the radio station’s site. But the challenge is: most people are listening through headphones connected to their smartphones, which are likely in their pockets. Solution? XAPP created “voice clicks.” When an ad plays, the listener can say a prompted phrase and be immediately connected to a download, coupon, call, or purchase—hands free.
Use various challenges as an opportunity for initiation. If you successfully assist your customer on this journey, you will win their loyalty. This means you need to anticipate user challenges, and step in when they need you most.
After discovering a greater knowledge and the success and joy that comes with that discovery, the hero often returns from the journey to the place of origin. By returning, entirely changed, back to their ordinary life, they can share the lessons and rewards with others. Basic point here: Give your customers an experience so awesome, they’ll want to share it with their friends.
The triumphant return is an important part of EVERY user’s journey. Online, your users should ALWAYS have an opportunity to review their experience, send you feedback, share a promotion with connections, post to social platforms, and more. In this phase, users become your nenw-world word-of-mouth; effectively initiating new customers into journeys of their own.
Sharing Epic Journeys Lead to Truly Fruitful Bonds
When strategizing and mapping possible user journeys, try each journey yourself. Start with where exposure to your brand starts, and attempt to experience those first doubts or challenges through the eyes of your user. End with the reward. Users’ experiences should culminate in something meaningful and worth sharing with their friends. Take visitors on an adventure narrative, from start to finish, and you’ll certainly forge a deep bond with them.
In the following few posts I’ll explore the smaller (though just as important) details that happen within each stage of the user’s journey.