This technique takes the story arc exercise a stage further. You start with the assumption that you are not the hero of your own story – your customer or the person you’re trying to help is the hero. To stick with the Star Wars theme, you are not Luke Skywalker, you are Yoda. But there are lots of different Yodas out there – so what kind of mentor are you?
We only tell stories about two things: people and animals. Usually, we give the animals human characteristics. Sometimes we take animal characteristics and apply them to ourselves (strong as an ox, stubborn as a mule, hungry like a wolf, and so on).
So when you’re telling stories about your customers, ask this question: “if I was my hero’s animal companion, what kind of animal would I be? How would I help my hero?”
For example, I was working with a design agency who decided they would be a hawk for their customers. They were up high with a great overview, but when they spotted an opportunity, they would swoop down on it. It’s then up to you whether you make the animal in your story explicit (and lots of companies do use animals to represent their brand) or just use it to guide your thoughts.
Credit: The mentor approach to storytelling comes from Jonah Sach’s Winning the Story Wars. You can find similar approaches in Margaret Mark and Carol Pearson’s The Hero and the Outlaw, in this piece on brand stories from Bryan Rhoads at Intel Media Lab or in Ffion Lindsay’s article on brand archetypes used by successful businesses.
Aesop is the father of animal archetypes in fiction and his Fables are still entertaining us 2,630 years on. At the other end of the spectrum, try Stephen Lloyd and Arch Woodside’s fascinating academic review of how animals are used in advertising.