Filmmakers and marketers continue to migrate toward one another because the key to their success is the same: story.

On my first day in graduate film school at Columbia University, my professor—a lauded screenwriter—began his class by saying, "Known, unknown, unity," and then left the room.

He was referring to the ideas of the late Joseph Campbell, a brilliant philosopher who created a basis for transcendent storytelling with a modern understanding of the power of mythology. For Campbell, the "myth" did not mean some yarn about gods and fantastical creatures. It referred, instead, to the basic pattern found in every timeless narrative.

My professor's point, albeit dramatic, was clear: There is a narrative pattern—Campbell's "Monomyth"—that resonates supremely with humankind.

The idea that brands are stories is not novel. But as a filmmaker-turned-marketer, I'm sensitive to how often brands focus on tactics, or, dare I say it, politics and compromise. They therefore lose sight of their monomyth—that narrative that identifies with consumers' values and transcends mere sales propositions in favor of an eternal, universal truth.

Too mystical to be true? Let's take a closer look at one of Campbell's patterns, as applied to a brand and stories we all know.

The Known

For Campbell, The Known is where a transcendent story begins. It is the moment we find our hero in a world he understands, but a world that is somehow unsatisfying.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Duke Greenhill is founder and executive creative director of Greenhill + Partners, LLC, a New York-based brand consultancy and marketing firm that focuses on authentic brand narratives to increase brand equity and cultivate brand-consumer relationships that transcend commerce.