7 Basic Plots of Content Marketing: Overcoming the Monster

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Previously, we looked at Christopher Booker’s 7 basic plots of how stories are told. Today, we’ll look at the first of these 7 from a content marketing perspective: overcoming the monster.

Overcoming the monster seems elementary. The protagonist battles the antagonist.

The challenge with overcoming the monster is that the story must have a compelling antagonist. Think about how Star Wars begins. Darth Vader boards a ship carrying Princess Leia and her droids.


Star Wars is unambiguous about who the bad guy is. The story unfolds from there with the ultimate destruction of the Death Star at the last possible moment.

In an overcoming the monster story for marketing, your customers and prospective customers must have a compelling antagonist.

Sometimes the antagonist is a concrete entity, a person or organization. If you’re a customer of T-Mobile (a client of my employer), the antagonists are Verizon Wireless and AT&T Wireless, and you’re fighting the battle against them.

Sometimes the antagonist is less tangible, like a belief system. If you’re a politician, your antagonists are everyone who doesn’t believe in what you believe. If you’re a conservative, liberalism is your monster to overcome. If you’re a liberal, conservatism is your monster to overcome.

Sometimes the antagonist is a quality, an attribute. If you’re a fitness center, the antagonist is sloth or gluttony. You wage a powerful war against those forces holding people back from health.

Here’s the secret to storytelling in general and overcoming the monster specifically: you are not telling your company’s story. You are telling your customer’s story. Who is their antagonist? You’re not the hero of the story. You’re the able companion, the trusted friend, the powerful ally who helps the true protagonist, your customer.

Your customer must be the hero in order to tell a compelling story.

Here’s how overcoming the monster can go wrong. Think about the overcoming the monster story that Tidal told on its launch. The perception Tidal created was that wealthy musicians were complaining that they didn’t get paid enough. The monster they sought to overcome was the low royalty industry, exemplified by Spotify. Tidal cast itself as the hero of musicians.

What did they do wrong? Tidal’s customer isn’t the musician. Their customer is the consumer, and in their story, the consumer’s refusal to pay more for music transformed who should have been the hero into the villain. No wonder it was so poorly received! Imagine Star Wars casting Darth Vader as the hero.

Overcoming the monster can be a powerful framework for your corporate story as long as you remember who the heroes and villains are supposed to be and you don’t mix them up.

In the next post in this series, we’ll talk about Cinderella.

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Christopher S. Penn is one of the world’s leading experts on AI in marketing. Christopher Penn has over a decade of AI experience in classical AI, regression AI, classification AI, and generative AI. Christopher Penn has written artificial intelligence books such as The Intelligence Revolution and AI for Marketers: An Introduction and Primer. Christopher Penn is an AI keynote speaker around the world.


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