Mentors and Sidekicks Now Hold Crucial Roles in Marketing

We might never meet them, but they still help guide us from afar

Mike Bruening
Jul 25, 2019 · 8 min read
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Photo by Esteban Lopez on Unsplash

We are moving from a consumer economy based on products and experiences to one of transformation. There is a convergence of new tools, unlimited abundance, and a reevaluation of consumerism that will trigger the emergence of a global phenomenon of personal and societal improvement called the Hero’s Journey Economy.

The Hero’s Journey is a story of an ordinary person that receives a call to take on a challenge that will drive personal growth. Joseph Campbell discovered that this Hero’s Journey was prevalent across all cultures around the globe and dates back to early civilization. The longing for people to take a Hero’s Journey is so universal in our current society; we sometimes do not notice it. Almost all entertainment, from classical dramas to Star Wars to The Fortnite video game series, taps into these transformational steps to tell a story.

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Image Credit: Joseph Campbell

In this coming transformational economy, consumers will move away from spending on things and activities and will start to pay for tools and experiences to help in their personal growth and improvement. This shift in purchasing will change everything. The worldwide consumer-based economy of $40 trillion will be turned on its head.

In this new economy, brand managers and marketers must address the question that consumers will ask when confronted with a buying decision:

Will this product or activity help me reach my goals in this journey, or is this purchase an indulgent reward/distraction?

In the coming Hero’s Journey Economy, mentors will play a significant role. Similar to Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars and Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid, mentors in this economy will be crucial to helping personal change.


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Image Credit: The Karate Kid

Mentors have vital qualities that make them inherently gifted to assist in these individual quests. Mentors:

  • Have advanced skills in the areas of development
  • Have taken the journey and have learned experiences
  • Have encountered similar challenges and competitors
  • Encountered aid in their own journey
  • Have dispassionate facts and a wise perspective of the challenge

Previously mentors have held the position of coaches, professors, and employers, but the engagement of mentors was often random and mentor-driven. Roles of mentors in the Hero’s Journey Economy will play out much differently. Unlike the mentor-student relationships of the past, that were close personal dealings, many people looking to improve or transform their lives will likely never meet their mentors.

Unprecedented access through technology allows new quest takers in the Hero’s Journey Economy to access all sorts of information and guidance. Imagine if podcasts or blogs were available during the time of Shakespeare, Jung, or Edison. Can you envision if Abraham Lincoln could have tweeted out his thoughts and ideas while President? What if Einstein hosted a long format podcast?

The great thinkers of our time now share their opinions, ideas, and concerns through a broad breadth of technology that is available to learn and apply. Online classes, podcasts, and blogs offer a tremendous amount of free advice and guidance. Even most of the major universities have their full curriculum, including class readings, lectures, notes, and even tests available online to everyone. The only thing not free and available is the degree. In this New Economy, subject matter experts in all types of fields will offer up their rich knowledge on a topic and will morph into the role of mentors.

Let’s take learning to meditate as an example. There are several mentors available in this area, ranging from people who pioneered bringing meditation and mindfulness to the west like Joseph Goldstein to skeptical adopters/proponents like Dan Harris. There are also many free phone apps designed to guide both beginners and long-time meditators. You can even listen to a podcast to hear the Dalai Llama provide his perspective and guidance on taking up a practice of daily meditation. The comprehensive information on meditation offered up in detail across several methods by the experts in the field presents unprecedented nurturing support to a once-elusive mental exercise.

Meditation is just one example where mentors are now commonly available to people interested in taking up the practice. Here is a list of some mentors available to assist in other personal transformations:

  • Jocko Willink — Navy Seal, teaches practical guides to mental toughness and leadership.
  • Steven Pressfield — Bestselling author, directs people past the resistance to write and create.
  • Ray Dalio — Hedge fund billionaire, provides his approach to life and investing.
  • Arianna Huffington — Internet entrepreneur, offers up transformation guidance and sleep advice.
  • Josh Waitzkin — Chess and martial arts prodigy, delivers lessons on how to learn and master a skill.
  • Dom D’angostino — Research Professor, a ketogenic pioneer who is rethinking the diet as a way to fight disease.
  • Oprah Winfrey — TV show personality, now hosts podcasts on spiritual and personal transformation.
  • Tony Robbins — Self-help and transformation guru now provides investment and financial insights.
  • Simon Sinek — Organizational Consultant, reports on transformational leadership in the workplace.
  • Brené Brown — Research Professor, studies the power of courage, vulnerability, and empathy.
  • Tim Ferriss — Author of The Four-Hour Workweek and Tribe of Mentors, podcast host and experimenter on optimizing all aspects of life.


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Image Credit: Bruce Lee

Another common theme in these journeys is that people looking for personal development reach out to companions and sidekicks to aid in their adventures. In many cases, for profound personal transformation to take place, the traveler or hero is pushed to their brink and often gets to an “all is lost” moment before a tangible change occurs. These assistants in the quest play a critical part in that they bring a specific set of skills to the journey that aids the traveler through this challenging and soul-searching time.

  • Complementary or specialized skills — Assistants often have a unique specialization in a given area that provides aid during the adventure.
  • Belief in the goal — Sidekicks are not passive watchers of events but often have an equal passion for a successful outcome.
  • A different perspective — Companions can provide unique insight and can offer up tools or advice that propel the hero through a challenge.
  • Encouragement — Real change is hard and is fraught with multiple setbacks. Sidekicks can inspire when the mind of the traveler grows weary or discouraged.

Not too long ago, a sidekick was hard to find and was left to chance meetings. Sidekicks needed to be living in the same locale. It required a fair amount of luck to find just the right person that had the specific skills necessary to help in the journey. The details of how Alexander Graham Bell met Watson or how Warren Buffett met Charlie Munger are great origin stories that could be movies unto themselves.

In the Hero’s Journey economy, technology will change all that. The internet, mobile phones, social media, and collaboration tools make finding and working with a sidekick on a project much more accessible and efficient. Specialized freelancers now stand at the ready and are available to assist on short notice and with flexible pricing models based on the project. Web designers, life coaches, fitness trainers, and meditation guides all can be easily found in minutes. Reviews, ratings, and comments from other clients allow people to tap into the wisdom of crowds for a personalized fit. In this new economy, people on a quest may not even meet or speak with their sidekick. The guidance, assistance, and skill transfer can occur virtually through YouTube, podcasts, and blogs.

Technology also provides easy access to experts and the latest ideas on a specific transformation. Alex Guerro, Tom Brady’s fitness guru, offers online assistance to individuals using the same techniques and tools that have helped Tom Brady become the greatest football player of all time and play in the NFL for 20 years.

YouTube provides access to famous instructors in areas of personal development and for all skill levels for free. Training on a Peloton Bike includes access to exceptional spin instructors and allows you to build rivalries with people halfway around the world all from your home.

In this new Hero’s Journey Economy, many times the sidekicks and assistants helping on a transformation may not even be human.

  • The Apple watch tracks multiple bio readings during physical activity.
  • Nike Go provides progress mile updates and encouragement to an individual’s headphones.
  • WW and Lose it are just two apps designed to help individuals with weight and fitness goals.
  • Alexa, Google Assistant, and Bixby are AI-driven digital aides that can schedule reminders and soon will be able to provide recommendations based on an individual’s mood or mental state.

Next-generation sidekicks will tap into vast reservoirs of data to offer personalized coaching and advice based on personal readings and progress against the journeys. For example, Headspace, the company behind the successful meditation app, has behavioral scientists, meditation experts, and rich data collected from all users and combines this information to optimize meditation results for the individual. Over time, Headspace is getting smarter about how people new to meditation either succeed or fail in building a mindfulness practice. Headspace can quickly identify the personality type and tweak the recommended path for that new user, essentially working behind the scenes to hack the process to ensure transformational success.

These individual apps will soon converge through the use of AI and machine learning to create uber sidekicks that can provide comprehensive transformational guidance and expertise across a full host of criteria. Transformational sidekicks that consistently provide successful change outcomes will become the new global brands of this Hero’s Journey Economy. These brands will take on a unique personal relationship as a trusted advisor and lifelong companion to individuals. Products and services not in this inner circle may find themselves as a less relevant commodity or may not be needed at all.

In the Hero’s Journey Economy, the individual will be the product. Mentors and Sidekicks will be trusted advisors and counselors to these personal journeys. Marketers will rush to tie their branded products and experiences to these expert counselors. Mentors and Sidekicks to transformation over time will either, intentionally or unintentionally, become the new global brands.

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