The Tragedy

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

Our focus now turns to Plot #2 – 

“The Tragedy”

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 “The Tragedy”

The Unfolding Drama of Loss

One of the plot structures that is very familiar to all of us is Tragedy. Contrary to its counterpart, Comedy, Tragedy delves into the darker realms of human experience, weaving tales of heartbreak, loss, and irreparable sorrow. 

In ancient Greece all dramas were categorised mainly into two types; tragedy and comedy. Unlike comedy, tragedy has retained its founding characteristics, it ends badly for the protagonist, with some sort of loss.

This article dissects the key characteristics that define the Tragedy plot, exploring its enduring appeal and its seamless integration into the realm of advertising and branding and explores how it can be used (with caution and cleverness).


Motivation: The protagonist usually starts from a generally positive or successful point and their motivation will be to maintain this or reach higher. 

Obstacle: The turning point for the protagonist is ‘fate’ intervenes, however it manifests itself in the story and jeopardises what they want. The protagonist suffers based on their choices in response to fate’s intervention and this increases their hardship because of their decisions.

Resolution: The protagonist’s inevitable failure or loss, before their ultimate demise.

While this plot relies on a central mistake or character flaw, it’s important to remember that the protagonist of a tragedy doesn’t necessarily have to be unlikable. In fact, a protagonist that the reader can relate to is more likely to evoke the emotional response that tragedies rely on. 


It’s also crucial that the characters are provided with a way out of the impending tragedy, yet choose not to take it.

Key Characteristics of Tragedy Plot:

The Tragedy plot possesses distinct characteristics that distinguish it within the realm of storytelling, while reading through the characteristics that make up this plot try to consider how this might express itself in an advertising campaign that would not reflect badly on the brand itself:

Inevitable Loss or Misfortune:

The narrative revolves around an inevitable loss, misfortune, or catastrophic event that befalls the protagonist. This creates a sense of impending doom and sorrow.

Protagonist’s Downfall:

Unlike other plots where the protagonist triumphs, in Tragedy, the protagonist experiences a downfall, often as a result of their own flaws, poor decisions, or external circumstances beyond their control.

Catharsis Through Suffering:

Tragedy seeks to evoke catharsis, through the suffering and emotional turmoil experienced by the protagonist. This emotional release is a central element of the tragic narrative.

Unavoidable Fate or Destiny:

The plot often unfolds with a sense of destiny or inevitability, where the tragic events are set in motion, and the protagonist is powerless to alter their course.

Moral or Existential Dilemmas:

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

The Essence of Tragedy:

At its core, the Tragedy plot immerses audiences in the exploration of loss, despair, and the inevitable consequences of human frailty. Whether it’s the tragic hero’s fatal flaw or the cruel twists of fate, the narrative unfolds as a poignant journey into the depths of sorrow.

The Advertising Melancholy:

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: Hinge – the Dating App Designed to Be Deleted

One of the rare positive twists on this plot. Here the brand’s selling point is that you need them to not need them anymore. I.e they will get you what you want and the tragedy will be theirs, they will provide you with the most important acquisition in your life, so the brand ‘suffers’ a death. It’s an “inevitable fate” if you become a customer of their service. 

Who Does This Speak To?

The Tragedy plot, with its emphasis on profound emotional experiences, can appeal to specific demographic types in advertising:

Romantic Idealists:

Individuals who appreciate narratives that delve into the depth and complexity of human emotions, particularly those who resonate with the idea of enduring love through hardships.

Mature Audiences:

Older audiences who may have experienced the complexities of life, loss, and love, and find narratives with emotional depth more resonant.

Moral activists:

Often an audience that are active in their moral social positioning and values will be in a position to connect with  


The enduring allure of the Tragedy plot lies in its ability to evoke powerful emotions and connect with audiences on a deeply human level. From ancient Greek tragedies to modern advertising, this archetypal narrative continues to captivate, offering a poignant blueprint for crafting narratives that transcend the boundaries of time and culture. 


Brands that master the art of weaving tragic tales can forge emotional connections that linger, creating a lasting impact beyond the confines of commerce. Understanding the nuanced emotional landscape of tragedy is the key to navigating the delicate balance between sorrow and resonance in advertising narratives. After all, in the world of Tragedy, the tears shed become an indelible testament to the shared human experience.

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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