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What Star Wars and the Hero’s Journey Can Teach Us About the Customer Journey

by: SilverTech

Though it may go by different names – customer, user, or buyer’s journey – the goal is the same: to better understand the myriad interactions your potential customers and customers have with your brand, online and off. I refer to the customer journey and customer journey mapping throughout this post, but my intention is to refer to any type of multidimensional map that helps you understand your users’ flow as they engage with your product or service.

In 1949, writer and mythologist, Joseph Campbell, undertook an exercise similar to customer journey mapping as he looked to understand why there are common themes and narrative arcs in so many of the stories and myths that humans, of all cultural backgrounds, have been telling since the beginning of time. His resulting multidimensional map, the hero’s journey, helps explain why the journeys of revelation, transformation, and atonement taken in popular movies and books by Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, and Frodo Baggins mirror those of ancient heroes, Odysseus, Hercules, and Inanna and even spiritual figures such as Buddha, Moses, and Christ.

Campbell called his book The Hero With a Thousand Faces, because his theory finds commonalities in the seemingly disparate and unique journeys of many different heroes. Building upon the work of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, who believed that we are all born with a subconscious idea of what a “hero”, “mentor”, or “quest” is, Campbell found that our stories and myths all go something like this:

“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.”

George Lucas famously consulted the hero’s journey as he wrote Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. He used it as a template to transform his fledgling space adventure into the dramatic and entertaining spectacle it became – one that has resonated with people of all ages and backgrounds and will likely continue to do so for generations to come. The hero’s journey helped him make sense of the journeys that he wanted to take his characters on, just as a customer journey map can help you make sense of the journeys you want to take your customers on.

Your Customer, The Hero

In addition to the similarities that exist between the customer journey and the hero’s journey as templates or multidimensional maps, when we begin to break down the hero’s journey there emerge parallels with the awareness, consideration, and decision stages of the customer journey. Let’s take a closer look:

“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder…”

At this stage of the hero’s journey in Star Wars: A New Hope, Luke is on Tatooine, unaware of his purpose but driven to find answers. Likewise, your potential customers are only beginning to realize that they have a problem that requires your solution. We call this the awareness stage of the customer journey. At this stage, the content that you create will be in the form of a whitepaper, checklist, or how-to video that answers and educates. Think of your awareness content as the message that Luke gets from R2-D2 alerting him to Princess Leia’s distress. R2’s hologram sets our hero off on a quest for more answers which is exactly what you want your awareness content to do.

“…fabulous forces are there encountered…”

With the “quest” well under way, Luke, encounters a “mentor”, Obi-Wan, who provides him with a tool that will help him as he confronts “fabulous forces.” Obi-Wan gives Luke his father’s lightsaber and begins to train him in the ways of the force. For our customer, the hero, this is the consideration stage. Their quest, too, is well underway and they need content and tools such as a webinar, case study, or FAQ that show how your company can help with their problem.

“…a decisive victory is won…”

At the end of A New Hope, Luke defeats the Death Star and learns that he has the powers of a Jedi. Our customer’s final battle is with choice. This is the decision stage and our customer is comparing their options and will ultimately make a purchase. Here, your content takes the form of a trial, demo, or consultation that will help them make the final decision and achieve victory!

“…the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”

After defeating the Death Star, Luke receives a medal and realizes his life will be spent pursuing his Jedi-ship. This is the post-purchase stage of your customer’s journey and there is a great opportunity here to surprise and delight. Do this part right and your customers will “bestow boons” in the form of positive reviews, word-out-of-mouth endorsements, and social media engagement.

It Is the Customer’s Journey

At the risk of drawing too many comparisons between an almost seventy-year-old theory of literature and mythology and a user experience tool at the forefront of digital strategy, there is one more similarity I’d like to point out. Thinking of the customer journey in terms of the hero’s journey helps us shift our perspective. As modern digital marketers, we may all be guilty of this on our websites, digital channels, and content: we design the experience that we think our customers want. This self-reflexive approach focuses too heavily on the funnel and bludgeons our customers with misaligned click-paths and irrelevant content.

As one of our partners put it, “customers expect brands to deliver service and value in any channel, irrespective of the channel or what kind of industry or product your brand represents.” If we fail to re-order our perspective and put the customer front and center, we will never meet their expectations. Today, it is critical to remember that your customer, user, or buyer is the hero of the customer journey. You, like Obi-Wan, are just there to help.