How to Craft a Hero’s Journey with a Refugee to Refugee Lawyer

In the art of marketing higher education, universities are almost expected to throw out elaborate marketing campaigns to portray their campus as the most prestigious, the most well-endowed, the most successful programs into the eyes of potential students. However, one Australian university decided to throw all that out and instead show the Hero’s Journey of one of it’s alumni.

If that gave you the feels then nearly two million views agree with you, it recently made waves for actually portraying one of the most unexpected students to succeed at Western, Deng Adut, a former child soldier. It also deserves a gold star for making effective use of the Hero’s Journey.

Hero's Journey Image

First coined by Joseph Campbell, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, the Hero’s Journey is a marketer’s favourite narrative, perfect for targeting a potential audience, by making them as the protagonist and with a happy ending.

The Lord of the Rings is the most well known Hero’s journey. The main protagonist is Frodo and his goal is to get the one true ring of power to Mount Doom and destroy it. ON the way he encounters obstacles in his path (e.g. the Nazgul). However, he has the support of allies including a mentor in the form of Gandalf.

Gandalf & Frodo

Now replace Frodo with your customer and the one true ring of power to something more realistic (but no less important to your customer). Finally, you are Gandalf, the mentor to offer guidance to help your Frodo. For extra immersion, go to work tomorrow with a staff and wizard’s hat, and say you’re just brand storytelling if your boss asks.

Deng Thiak Child Soldier

For the Western Sydney University, its hero’s journey has tapped into two strong elements of recent narratives: Child soldiers and refugees. Children and war have been a strain in popular culture such as many recent nonfictional accounts such as Memoirs of a Child soldier to the popular Blood Diamond (which takes my prize for some of the most vivid scenes of child soldiers fighting I’ve ever seen). As well as refugees that have tried to escape from their conflict-torn countries in search of a better life in places like Australia.

Deng Thiak Student

For Western Sydney University, their targeted audience are international students and recent migrants to Australia. And their goal is to encourage them to come and study at Western. By showing how far one alumni has come to realize his dream, it offers the full benefit that having a higher education can offer to someone’s life. Note there is almost nothing about any accolades or programs offered at Western, instead by inserting itself as an important part of their potential student’s journey with the unlimited potential they can offer.

Deng Thiak Lawyer

For brand storytellers, it’s never about creating the narrative for the company, but making the story all about your consumer so that they see the brand as a crucial part of their journey.

Narrative is Power Video Mashup Ad

The Awesomeness of Mashups in Advertising

Video ads have always been an effective marketing opportunity, especially for their narrative potential. Find any list of top 5 ads of the year and chances is that they had some narrative element that give you the feels if you don’t believe me just check out any southeast Asian ad that has gone viral; all could easily qualify for short film contests. But with good narratives comes fan-made remakes, subs remixes and mashups of the original creation. The correct term is cultural appropriation, not the copyright crime kind, but the artistic kind that made Andy Warhol so famous such as his Campbell soup can wall. Mashups have a narrative potential for any ad that will make your customers turn their head and say “hey I know that-”



Taking an original work and then mashing up the scenes to alter the original artistic intent is a popular form of creation for videos (check out this great genre recut for The Ring Trailer). To make one take a piece of popular culture, let’s say Simpsons combine it with the ingenuity of Google and you get one of the most innovative YouTube ad videos of all time.

If you haven’t seen the Simpsons episode Mr. Plow (it’s one of the episodes when the simpsons were still good) it’s about Homer’s latest career change, this time, a snow plow man. Google creatively recut scenes so Homer isn’t competing with Barney but Lisa promoting Mr. Plow on Google.

As a mashup pretty much expertly done, that you could have sworn they must have added new scenes to make it look that good, as well as a great little narrative of how Google would have altered Mr. Plow storyline into this weird amazingness. Gold Star Google.



One of the more popular videos on Youtube is to add subtitles to an original property but with unintended consequences. One of the most popular memes was from the movie “Downfall” a scene where Hitler breaks down like a spoiled manchild is subbed with Hitler ranting about trivial things such as Justin Bieber or Brazil losing the world cup.

A taco shop in Texas was recently vandalized and had their cash registers stolen. And it was caught on security cameras. The standard action would be to report it to police, sending over their surveillance tapes and had some luckless employee come in early to clean up the mess. Instead, they did awesomeness.

Adding a commentary utterly changed the nature of the surveillance cameras, promoting a message of a thievish love of tacos instead of old-fashioned robbery. This ad has been seen on collegehumor.com, adweek and other prominent sites for its spot-on ingenuity. The restaurant was probably able to pay for for any damages and theft with the extra sales they made from extra customers looking for a taco fix.

Gaining copyright permission is important as well we can’t all have opportunities for original content or thievery land on our laps. Think like a fan, especially your fans, and remake a popular narrative into something new that they will enjoy and engage with.

Star Wars The Force Awakens the Power of User-Generated Content

With Star Wars The Force Awakens utterly shattering box office records, the $4 billion investment Disney paid to George Lucas seems to have paid off. Not that the hype for the 7th entry into lightsabers and the Millennium Falcon was a surprise, given the sheer amount of hype. The Disney Marketing team should pat themselves on the back for the massive campaign which involved teaming up with Google to heavily viewed trailers. However it wasn’t only Disney’s efforts that ensured only those living in bunkers, stocking up on gunpowder and baked beans, could not have gone one day without seeing an X-wing fighter. The movie was a success because by the lead-up to the film’s release, social media sites were clogged with Star Wars related articles and videos, creating user-generated content. 
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How a Syrian rebel group won Video Marketing

The media and news coming out of the Syrian civil war have varied from the professional  content being produced by the Islamic State showing their barbarity to shocking ads of refugees from human rights group. But the general narrative is of brutality and complicated chaos that Game of Thrones would find hard to match. However one of the goals from every side is to portray themselves as the good guys in order to gain popular support, material supplies and recruits. The Islamic state is currently at the top of the other militant groups in their content and video marketing to gain attention and recruits. However, another rebel group, the Levant Front, has caught up on Facebook news feeds with an execution video that has already received more than half a million views. Check it out below
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Narrative is Power - Cecil Hotel Feature Image

Narrative Cliffhangers: Why the Cecil Hotel Mystery is so popular

A death at the Cecil hotel two years ago ending with a body in the hotel’s water tank has elevated the deceased, Elisa Lam into an internet phenomenon becoming an inspiration for a TV series. The hype could be because of the Cecil Hotel’s already dark past which includes murders and two serial killers, or in the urban myth quality of how her decaying body mixed with the water supply. However Elisa Lam’s has become a macabre celebrity because her death is a mystery that hasn’t been solved.
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Why only Nostalgia could power the Star Wars Battlefront Ad

If you haven’t watched the new Star Wars: Battlefront ad by Playstation watch it. Even if you aren’t interested in playing the game, watch it. Here let me make it easy for you.

For an ad, it’s got a great narrative arc, a very focused message and most of all touches on the major source of Star Wars Fandom: Nostalgia. And while we may laugh on how thickly nostalgia has been used it works. Nostalgia the reason why the prequel trilogy and the now upcoming The Force Unleashed movie are killing pre-ticket sales. It’s a great example of the power of motivation that one would clearly understand leaping out a skyscraper onto an X-wing and why an ad’s success is dependent on choosing the right motivation.
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Defeats, Blue Jays, Narrative is Power

Why the Blue Jays needed to lose to be popular

Jose Bautista’s bat-flip like a tomahawk will be marked down as one of the many high points of the Blue Jay’s 2015 season. For a city and a team that has suffered a dearth of sports victories for over a decade, it was well-needed with #cometogether being Toronto’s rallying cry. However The Jays needed those defeats, those losses to make the emotional impact of their near storyific rise.
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Why Extremists love Narrative Marketing Feature Image

Why Extremists love Narrative Marketing

I once had a conversation with a friend of mine, who told me about her grandfather who lived through Mussolini’s Italy and believed it was the greatest time of Italy’s history. One could immediately dismiss such thinking as antiquated thinking of a befuddled old man. However that still doesn’t hide the fact that extremist states were formed with the collective permission of their citizens, and that die-hard attitudes fascists was a thing during the closing years of World War 2. Maybe it was the economic benefit, one of the “lucky few”, me and my friend (thankfully) weren’t there to witness it. My personal opinion? That Hitler and Mussolini were popular for creating one of the most compelling narratives of their generation.
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Why Political Email Marketing are like Bad Blockbusters

With the Federal elections coming up (Canadian ones for all my American readers) all the parties have been busy debating, smiling all around and kissing babies. Email Marketing is a tactic which political parties are using and by political parties, the Liberals and the NDP (the Conservatives are curiously absent). However after months of the orange and red cluttering my inbox, the only thing differentiating them is their colours and that they are the email equivalent of an empty blockbuster flick, probably directed by Michael Bay.
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Why PR crisis are solved with a Villain Redemption

The Internet’s newest villain of the week came in the form of Martin Shkreli, ex-hedge fund manager and pharma investor, who recently raised the price of a parasite-fighting drug from $13.75 to $750. Prescription drug price increases are nothing new in the pharmaceutical world. While morally questioned, price increases are not illegal and often pass by unnoticed by the general public. However when it went public Martin Shkreli shot himself in the foot and kept shooting himself in the foot by using his twitter account like Hitler commanding the Wehrmacht. Getting into needless arguments with other twitterers, making insensitive tone-deaf responses to his business decision have all led to a visceral reaction from the internet.
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