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5 Story Structures to Shape Your Marketing Narrative


Over the holiday break, I watched the latest Wonder Woman movie with my daughter. At different points throughout the movie, I found myself shouting at the screen, "Oh! I knew that was going to happen!"


Has this ever happened to you? You know exactly what is going to happen during a movie or a book - even if you've never read before.


There's a reason for this.


People have followed certain story structures for thousands of years. The structures ensure our stories make sense and that our audience understands what they're hearing. Structures help our audience follow along.


At bloomly, we rely of five main story structures to help shape our clients' marketing narratives. These structures make it easier for your audiences to understand what you're trying to say, and they keep your audiences entertained and engaged. Below are explanations of each story structure, and examples of when to use them.


Once Upon A Time

If you are selling products or services with a short lifecycle, you could use the “Once Upon a Time” story structure. The structure sounds like this:


Once Upon a Time

Every Day

One Day

Because of That

Because of That

Until Finally

The End


Pixar is notorious for shaping their films like this. You might recognize this structure when reading classic childrens' books, too.


Use the “Once Upon A Time” story structure if you are marketing an accelerator for the Salesforce platform, or a rip-and-replace offering.


These offerings have a shorter lifecycle, are fairly consumable and typically inexpensive, and they have a high customer churn rate based on multitude factors such as cost, quality, and timeline to finish.


The Hero’s Journey

If you're selling products or services with a longer life cycle, you can use the “Hero’s Journey” story structure. The structure sounds like this:


In the Known world, the hero gets a call to adventure.

The hero receives supernatural aid.

The hero has to cross the threshold into the unknown world.

Then, the hero meets mentors and guides.

In the unknown world, the hero overcomes challenges.

The hero hits “rock bottom” which seems like failure.

But, the hero is transformed by the failure.

The hero completes the most difficult challenge.

Because the hero completed this, they are rewarded and can return home.


This story structure has been used for thousands of years. It shapes some of the epic poems you may have read in high school. It also informs the structure for the Star Wars trilogy.


Use this story structure when marketing services that help people or businesses transform, such as consulting or education services.


These services have a longer lifecycle and require commitment from the customer in the forms of time, money, and mental and emotional investment. These are typically more expensive services, and require a deeper emotional connection in order to sell.


Winners and Losers

If you're selling products or services that are new to the market or very different from the market standard, you can use the Winners and Losers story structure. This structure is based on Andy Raskin's Medium Article, The Greatest Sales Deck I've Ever Seen. It goes like this:


Name a relevant, transformative change happening in the world

Show how there are "winners" and "losers"

Show what the "Promised Land" looks like

Introduce ways to overcome obstacles to the Promised Land

Present proof your business can make it happen


This story structure has been used prolifically by SaaS companies to help sell their proprietary technology and future-forward services. The bloomly team has seen it and used it in our work at IBM and Bluewolf.


Use this story structure when marketing services or offerings that have not yet been widely adopted, such as those based on AI-based or quantum analytics.


These offerings require your audience to see and understand not only your vision for the future of the world, but they need to believe that's where we're all collectively headed. They are typically expensive and require your customer to implement intense internal change management.


Against All Odds

If you're selling products or services that will take your client from archaic ways of operating into the future, you can use the Against All Odds story structure. This structure is used by best selling author Dean Koontz, and author Jerry Jenkins teachers writers how to use this structure to captivate an audience throughout a lengthy novel. The structure goes like this:


Immediately put your main character in as much trouble as possible

Show how every action taken to get out of trouble only makes things worse

Show how the situation is completely hopeless

Show ho