Rags to Riches

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

Let’s take a look at Plot #4 –

“Rags to Riches”

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 “Rags to Riches”

The Transformative Journey of Triumph

One narrative archetype that is so familiar it is even used in everyday language is Rags to Riches. This plot hinges on inspiration and aspiration, it delves into the transformative journey of individuals rising from humble beginnings to achieve greatness. This article dissects the key characteristics that define the Rags to Riches plot, exploring its enduring appeal and its seamless integration into the realm of advertising and branding.


Motivation: In one way or another the protagonist begins in lowly circumstances they are in a life or situation of struggle. There is a desire for a better life or a longing for elevation. The motivation often stems from the protagonist’s realisation of their exceptional qualities or a unique opportunity that could lead to a significant transformation.

Obstacle: Following the protagonist’s choices to climb out of their situation they encounter obstacles that will worsen their state and take them through the challenges of having now voiced their aspirations to their faithless surroundings. These challenges can be societal barriers, personal limitations, or external forces that stand in the way of their ascent. The journey involves overcoming these obstacles to achieve success.

Resolution: Through determination, hard work, or a stroke of luck, the protagonist rises from their humble beginnings to achieve success and prosperity. The resolution involves a tangible elevation in the protagonist’s status and life. This could be in the form of wealth, recognition, social standing, or personal growth.

In summary, the Rags to Riches plot revolves around a protagonist motivated to overcome their initial disadvantages, facing and conquering obstacles that impede their progress, and ultimately experiencing a transformation leading to a significant improvement in their life circumstances. This narrative structure resonates with the theme of triumph over adversity and the pursuit of a better life.


Though similarities can be found between this plot and Overcoming the Monster, the main difference is in the resolution, Act III, as the great good is achieved elevating the protagonist out of the previous world rather than elevating the circumstances of the world around them from the previous threat.

Key Characteristics of Rags to Riches Plot:

The Rags to Riches plot possesses distinct characteristics that distinguish it within the realm of storytelling:


Protagonist’s Humble Beginnings:

The narrative begins with the protagonist in a state of adversity, often marked by poverty, obscurity, or a lack of social standing. This sets the stage for a compelling journey of transformation.


The protagonist encounters a pivotal opportunity or a call to adventure that has the potential to change their circumstances. This could be a stroke of luck, a mentor figure, or a chance encounter that opens the door to a new world of possibilities.

Struggle and Perseverance:

The journey involves the protagonist facing numerous challenges, obstacles, or adversities that test their resilience and determination. This phase is crucial for character development and audience engagement.

Acquisition of Wealth or Success:

Through hard work, talent, or a combination of factors, the protagonist achieves a significant level of success, often measured in terms of wealth, social standing, or recognition.

Transformation and Growth:

Tragedy often explores profound moral or existential dilemmas, forcing characters and audiences to grapple with complex ethical questions.

The Essence of Rags to Riches:


At its core, the Rags to Riches plot revolves around the transformative journey of individuals overcoming adversity to achieve success and prosperity. Whether it’s a fairy tale about a pauper turned prince or a modern-day success story, the narrative unfolds as a triumphant journey of self-discovery and achievement.

The Advertising Triumph:

In the realm of advertising, brands can harness the power of Tragedy by infusing narratives with emotional depth. While seemingly counterintuitive, melancholic storytelling can resonate profoundly, creating a memorable and emotionally charged connection with audiences. This is most commonly used as an emotional hook to demonstrate what the alternative could be if you didn’t purchase the brand’s product or service, often charities use this plot in their advertising campaigns, but there are some rare cases where other brands have cleverly utilised the Tragedy plot:

Example: Nike – Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy in new Nike Golf Advert


Nike’s iconic advertising campaigns often embody the spirit of the Rags to Riches plot. Here we have an aspirational story where both the heroes are good at what they do, but are still reaching further. Our two heroes here are surrounded by and wearing symbols of the brand and therefore are being helped by the brand to aspire and achieve.

Who Does This Speak To?

The Rags to Riches plot, with its emphasis on aspiration, resilience, and achievement, can appeal to specific demographic types in advertising:

Young Adults and Millennials:

Individuals who are in the early stages of their careers or life journey, seeking inspiration and empowerment. The narrative resonates with the desire for personal and professional growth.

Entrepreneurs and Start-Up Enthusiasts:

Those engaged in entrepreneurial pursuits, where the journey from adversity to success is a familiar and aspirational narrative. The plot aligns with the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation.


The enduring allure of the Rags to Riches plot lies in its ability to inspire, uplift, and connect with audiences on a deeply aspirational level. From classic literature to modern advertising, this archetypal narrative continues to captivate, offering a blueprint for crafting narratives that transcend socioeconomic boundaries.


Brands that master the art of telling stories of aspiration can forge a connection that goes beyond commerce, becoming companions in the journey of triumph. Understanding the aspirational narrative that resonates with your target audience is the key to not only achieving marketing goals but also creating a lasting and positive emotional impact and brand loyalty. After all, in the world of Rags to Riches, the journey from adversity to triumph becomes a shared testament to the human spirit’s indomitable will.

Are you looking for help with telling your brand's story?

At h10 agency, we specialise in creating video content for higher education marketing. This ranges from higher end promo videos, through to user-gen and social.


If you’d like to chat about producing videos for your institution, we’d be happy to have a call to chat. Drop us a message below.

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