Overcoming the Monster

Click here for the complete article showcasing “The Seven Basic Plots Applied to Branding.

Let’s now explore Plot #3 – “Overcoming the Monster”

Stories hold immense significance for us, permeating every aspect of our lives and maintaining their relevance. Now, the question arises: How can you ensure that your story stands out?

The key lies in establishing an emotional bond. Information resonates more profoundly when accompanied by emotional engagement. At the core of all impactful content, regardless of its form, lies a well-crafted story. There are seven storytelling archetypes, and it’s fascinating to consider their application in the realm of branding.

Here we discuss “Overcoming the Monster”

Challenging the Status Quo

The archetypal plot of Overcoming the Monster is the universal theme of confronting and triumphing over an existential threat, be it a mythical beast, a malevolent force, or an insurmountable obstacle. Exploring the intricacies of this archetypal narrative, it becomes apparent that it is more than a plot of folklore and fiction, it is a powerful theme in the dynamic landscape of advertising and branding.


Motivation: Whatever the situation the protagonist finds themselves in at the beginning they will gain a sense of duty, responsibility, or a realisation that there is an existential threat that must be confronted for the greater good. The protagonist is then driven by a compelling force or call to action.

Obstacle: The protagonist will often be presented with a choice between remaining in the status quo or sacrificing something to go after the greater good, this path will of course lead to many complications.

Resolution: Despite the difficulties encountered, the protagonist triumphs in the end. They successfully overcome the monster, achieving victory over the threat or obstacle that initially seemed insurmountable. This triumph leads to a tangible reward or transformation, elevating the protagonist’s status from vulnerability to strength.

Whatever form the monster takes it is important that the threat it poses is more than just some sort of personal harm to the protagonist. 


In essence, the Overcoming the Monster plot is characterised by a protagonist motivated to confront a significant threat, facing and overcoming obstacles in a perilous journey, and ultimately achieving triumph and transformation. This structure resonates with the universal theme of resilience and victory over challenges.

Key Characteristics of Overcoming the Monster Plot:

The plot is characterised by several key elements that distinguish it from other narrative structures. These characteristics provide a framework for recognising and understanding stories that fall within this archetypal plot:


Existential Threat or Monster:

The narrative centres around a formidable adversary or existential threat. This could be a literal monster, a malevolent force, an oppressive system, or a significant obstacle that poses a substantial challenge to the protagonist and their world. More often than not in branding we are dealing with the status quo, shown in behaviour or symbolically in a product or service that the brand is able to challenge when the protagonist employs the ethos of that brand.

Hero’s Call to Action:

The protagonist receives a call to action, compelling them to confront and overcome the identified monster. This call to action is typically born out of a sense of duty, responsibility, or the realisation that the threat must be addressed for the greater good.

Perilous Journey or Confrontation:

The protagonist embarks on a perilous journey or engages in a direct confrontation with the monster. This journey may involve physical, emotional, or psychological challenges that test the protagonist’s mettle and resilience.

Triumphant Victory:

Despite the difficulties faced, the protagonist emerges triumphant in the end. They successfully overcome the monster, defeating the threat or obstacle that initially seemed insurmountable. This victory is often a result of the protagonist’s courage, ingenuity, or a combination of both.

Reward or Transformation:

Following the protagonist’s triumph, there is a tangible reward or transformation. This could be the restoration of peace and order, the acquisition of a valuable prize, or a positive change in the protagonist’s character or circumstances.


Elevated Status of the Hero:

The protagonist undergoes a transformation or elevation in status, moving from a position of vulnerability or insignificance to one of strength and significance. This change is a direct result of their ability to confront and overcome the monster.

Symbolic Significance:

The plot often carries symbolic significance, with the monster representing deeper fears, societal challenges, or internal conflicts. The hero’s journey becomes a metaphor for the human experience of facing and conquering adversity. In our current global, online and ethically hyper-aware society this plot is a very common narrative, but don’t make the mistake of going to this plot out of ease or large audience resonance as it may not be the narrative the audience of your brand are experiencing or looking for.


The Essence of Overcoming the Monster


At its core, the Overcoming the Monster plot revolves around a protagonist facing an ominous and seemingly invincible adversary. This adversary, often symbolising chaos, oppression, or an existential threat, becomes a vessel for the protagonist’s fortitude. The narrative unfolds as the protagonist embarks on a perilous journey, confronts the monster head-on, and emerges victorious, reaping the rewards of their valiant efforts. 


When this is articulated in short form or still images for advertising the narrative will still include the three acts of motive, obstacle and reward. This can be in visual representation or slogans in a still image.

The Advertising Alchemy:

Aligning brands with the heroic journey of their target demographic. The monster, in this context, is not merely a mythical creature but represents the obstacles, challenges, or unmet needs faced by consumers. Brands position themselves as the catalysts, empowering individuals to overcome these metaphorical monsters and claim their well-deserved rewards. This is where understanding the narrative of your target market becomes an incredibly powerful tool, this is their emotional language and if you can speak it, they will listen.

Example: FreeView Play – Unleashing the Hero Within:


An example is the advertising campaign by FreeView Play, where the monster is not only a literal entity but also an oppressive force denying individuals the right to shape their world according to personal preferences. The product or service becomes the hero’s weapon, turning the tide against the monster and restoring balance. In this narrative, the target demographic assumes the role of the hero, empowered by the brand to conquer the obstacles and assert their rights.

Who Does This Speak To?

Overcoming the Monster can resonate with a wide range of demographic types. 


Here are some examples and explanations of who and what demographic types this narrative plot might appeal to in advertising:

Health and Fitness Enthusiasts:

Example: Nike’s “Just Do It” Campaign


Explanation: For individuals passionate about health and fitness, the “monster” could be portrayed as personal limitations, self-doubt, or the sedentary lifestyle. Nike positions itself as the catalyst empowering individuals to overcome these obstacles through its products, creating a narrative that appeals to those striving for physical well-being, but coupled with the emotional sense that something that was keeping them from that has been defeated.

Environmental Activists:

Example: Patagonia’s Don’t Buy This Jacket

Explanation: The consumer “monster” in this context represents the mindset that you need a lot of things, which leads to unsustainable practices. Very cleverly they launched a campaign where they discouraged their audience to not buy another jacket and to have items that last and don’t need to be replaced, therefore reducing impact on the environment. This campaign was selling something a lot more powerful and longer-lasting than a jacket, they were selling values alignment, they show they have the same values as the customer, even if it hurts their business, so the next time they do need clothing, they will go to Patagonia. This is a great example of understanding the narrative plot that aligns with your audience and speaking the same language.

Tech-Savvy Innovators:

Example: Apple’s “1984” Commercial

Explanation: In the tech industry, the “monster” might symbolise outdated technology, lack of innovation, or conformity. Apple positions itself as the disruptor, empowering individuals to overcome technological constraints and embrace a new era of innovation.

Start-Up Entrepreneurs:

Example: Shopify’s Entrepreneurial Stories Campaign

Explanation: The “monster” for aspiring entrepreneurs could represent the challenges of starting a business, lack of resources, or the fear of failure. Shopify positions itself as a solution, empowering entrepreneurs to overcome obstacles in their journey to success. Shopify becomes the weapon to hold against these fears and excuses having made it an easy and streamlined service.

Social Justice Advocates:

Example: Ben & Jerry’s Social Justice Initiatives

Explanation: The “monster” in the context of social justice could represent inequality, discrimination, or systemic issues. Brands like Ben & Jerry’s position themselves as advocates, empowering consumers to overcome social injustices through support for various causes and initiatives.

Self-Improvement Seekers:

Example: Peloton’s “Together We Ride” Campaign

Explanation: For those focused on personal growth, the “monster” might represent complacency, lack of motivation, or the struggle to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Peloton positions itself as a transformative force, empowering individuals to overcome personal obstacles through fitness and community.

Financial Empowerment Seekers:

Example: PayPal’s “New Money” Campaign

Explanation: The financial “monster” might symbolise traditional banking constraints, lack of financial inclusion, the complexity of financial transactions and with whom the power lies in these actions. PayPal positions itself as a solution, empowering consumers to overcome financial obstacles through innovative, user-friendly services.

Luxury Brands Targeting Aspirational Consumers:

Example: Rolex’s “A Crown for Every Achievement” Campaign

Explanation: The “monster” for aspirational consumers could represent mediocrity or lack of recognition for achievements. Luxury brands like Rolex position themselves as symbols of success, empowering individuals to overcome the ordinary and celebrate their accomplishments. Here Rolex are quite obviously the “well-deserved reward” of the hero that conquers the monster of mediocrity.


The enduring allure of the Overcoming the Monster plot lies in its ability to tap into fundamental human emotions; fear, courage, and the pursuit of victory. From ancient mythologies to contemporary marketing strategies, this archetypal narrative continues to resonate, offering a timeless blueprint for crafting engaging and impactful stories. As brands harness the power of this narrative, they not only align themselves with a narrative structure ingrained in our collective psyche but also become enablers of personal triumphs for their customers, forging a powerful connection that transcends commerce and becomes a shared journey of conquering the monsters that dwell within and without. 


Understanding if this plot works for your brand or your campaign will give you a much clearer picture of how to achieve your goal as well as successfully communicate to you audience, on an emotional level, sell an emotion not a product or service and you will continue to have engaged customers.



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