Getting to Act 2: Customer Engagement Lessons from the Movies

On the storytelling framework and the customer journey

Benito Vergara
10 min readApr 8, 2021


I’ve written about stories as frameworks for customer engagement and their specific applications to product management. I also dig deeper into different parts of the story framework; the first is about the heroes and their needs.

In this post I focus on three of those elements from the Hero’s Journey:

  • the Call to Adventure,
  • the Refusal of the Call, and
  • Crossing the Threshold

and map them onto the customer journey. (I will deal with them out of sequence, because I’ll be writing more about the Refusal of the Call in a future post.)

The Hero’s Journey, from Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey

The Call to Adventure

It’s a necessary milestone in just about any conventional narrative. The call to adventure is what gets the ball rolling after the introduction of the cast and the setup of the plot in the opening chapters of scenes.

“Come with me if you want to live,” says Kyle Reese to Sarah Connor in The Terminator, saving her from the machine that would later say the same line in a different context, and — ah, never mind.

Michael Biehn and Linda Hamilton in a scene from The Terminator

In The Matrix, the Call to Adventure is meant literally: Neo gets a phone call from Morpheus, telling him how to escape the suited agents swarming the office.

Keanu Reeves holding a cell phone and peeking up from a cubicle, in a scene from The Matrix

And in The Fellowship of the Ring, Gandalf says it outright to Frodo:

Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Fellowship of the Ring

You’ll notice that all three Calls to Adventure are made under different circumstances, mostly under duress. This is not a recommended product strategy tactic, by the way. At this point in The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo has no idea what lies ahead, other than…



Benito Vergara

Senior product manager, fiction writer, former anthropologist. I study culture, tell stories, and herd cats. More: