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.