A hero is an exceptional individual or a primary fictional character who, while facing adversity, fights adversity with courage, ingenuity, or strength through acts of bravery, courage, or intellect. Similar to many other previously solely gender-specific words, hero is also occasionally used to describe any gender, although hero usually refers to only women. In popular culture, most often to portray a hero as a strong and heroic person, quotes from popular movies such as “The Incredible Hulk” and “Wreck-It Ralph” are used as the basis for a number of heroic stereotypes. Although it seems that Hollywood has only recently come around to including more positive portrayals of men as heroes, as time goes on, more stories are sure to be written which deal with more positive hero images.


“When I Am Fully Human” by Jack Canfield is a book on how to be a hero. The book was published in 1984 and describes 12 steps that a man should take if he wishes to be a hero. These include: being honest and true to one’s self; accepting all people into his life; knowing that all people have good in them; believing in himself but not needing to act on his own behalf; walking the path of the Light; loving unconditionally; and being willing to make sacrifices for the sake of others. These steps provide a useful guide on how to be a hero, especially if one is unsure about how to live up to these standards. However, it can also be seen as an optimistic and idealistic way of living.

One example of a hero journey in literature is the story of Daniel Plainview who at first was down and out. Yet through the 12 steps mentioned in the text, plainview gradually becomes a much-loved and compassionate person who possesses goodness, compassion, warmth, and intelligence. Just as in the movie, when he finally reaches the end of the story, Plainview shows everyone around him that he has changed.

Another hero image that is similar to the book and the movie is David Aberg’s “The Case for Men.” In this book, Aberg compares the hero’s journey to that of a corporation in that they both possess a value proposition. His hero, Thomas Cromwell, starts out as a simple man who doesn’t know a lot about business and its principles, but over time, he slowly becomes a respected and knowledgeable businessman. In doing so, he shows everyone throughout his journey the importance of business ethics, loyalty, honor, and responsibility. In addition, he also shows how these same values can apply to a family.

The most common hero images used in marketing are those that are associated with different social status. For instance, the hero of the story in “Catching Fire” by Stephen King is a blacksmith who gains the love and respect of his shop’s owner, yet struggles with internalized racism because of his blacksmith background. The hero in the book “The Bodyguard” by Matthew McConaughey is a former bodyguard who now works as an investigator. Just as King’s character struggles with internalized racism, many other heroes of varying ethnicity and backgrounds struggle with societal prejudice.

There are many ways to identify heroes within any story, and identifying the right hero image can greatly increase sales and help create business ethics and aligning a business with its core values. Using one or more of the hero images listed above can help a business establish its core ideals and business ethics. If a hero inspires confidence, honesty, integrity, and a strong sense of responsibility in its customers and employees, a business will have a positive effect on its bottom line. Once a hero image is established in a story, it can easily be adapted to a number of different media, allowing for endless permutations and interpretations.

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