The Origin Story

The practice of embracing the Hero's Journey to launch corporate products was born out of restriction. And necessity. This is the story of how the Hero's Journey became a strategic tool to lauch corporate products and grow businesses of all kinds.

In the '80's, the team of Lockheed, Boeing, and General Dynamics were to compete with Northrop and McDonnell Douglas to win the $70 billion F-22 Fighter Jet Program for the Air Force - the largest contract in history.  Losing was not an option for Lockheed, and as communications manager, Tom White was given two clear goals:

     1) Prove that Lockheed is "The Only" choice

     2) Eliminate the competition.


The restrictions were daunting. Northrop had just flown the B2 Bomber and Lockheed had developed nothing relevant that it could show the Air Force since the Vietnam War era.  The company couldn't reveal anything about its design since this program was classified Top Secret, and the Air Force required both competitor's aircraft to meet identical performance and price characteristics.


Intensive research revealed that Lockheed's unmatchable perceived value was embodied in its P38 Lighting, one of aviation history's greatest innovations, and of one of the most iconic combat aircraft of all time.

© Syd Mead 

"The Lockheed F-22"

© Syd Mead 


© Syd Mead 

"The Lockheed Factory of the Future"

© Syd Mead 

"Blade Runner"

To portray Lockheed as the successful and innovative visionary it actually was, Tom engaged a storytelling approach, and asked legendary futurist Syd Mead to bring an exciting (and fictitious) plane to life in the same way he had created the fictitious worlds of Blade Runner, Aliens, and other feature films. 

These realistic portrayals of the future mirrored the innovation of the P38. They were distributed as limited edition posters, suitable for framing, to Air Force pilots and officers at conference gatherings.


"The P-38"

And he gave the product an identity.



Just as one plane embodied innovation, one man embodied the P38. Major Dick Bong was the most successful Air Ace in American history, known throughout the Air Force for his extraordinary performance in the P38. 

Tom wrote and produced a mini-feature film entitled "The Spirit of Flight" that brought the ghost of Major Bong to life in the dream of an 11-year-old boy who longed to be a great fighter pilot.

This channeled not only the likeness of the Major but the character of Gregory Peck in Twelve O'clock High, an embodiment of military courage.


Major Dick Bong,

"Ace of Aces, WWII"

Gregory Peckfrom 

"Twelve O'clock High, 1949"

Major Dick Bong,

portrayed in "The Spirit of Flight"

This approach connected with a shared memory across all ranks of the customer - their childhoods were all filled with the longing to be a pilot. 

Eleven-year-old Jason embarked on a Hero's Journey, met his mentor and faced death to realize his life's ambitions. 

Bringing this authentic, emotional story to life required a careful, creative translation from industry speak to movie-reality. To be successful, it would have to be completely embraced by an incredibly knowledgable viewing audience. 

It needed to communicate new substance in a way that did not violate security protocol.

Tom wrote the screenplay, secured budget, and engaged Hollywood  to produce the movie and build the special theater in which it played. 

The Spirit of Flight




To attract audiences in the live venue environments where the campaign would be unveiled, the exhibition environment was designed with a special surround-sound theater. An authentic Hollywood movie poster was created to commemorate the event. To ensure everyone could attend rather than be turned away by long lines, time-stamped tickets enabled in a full-house for each show.


The movie connected emotionally with the Air Force Chief of Staff, the decision maker, who proclaimed to Lockheed's chairman "You've captured the spirit of this program."


The Lockheed team won the competition, leading to a merger with Martin Marietta and winning the even larger F35 multirole fighter jet program - which the Air Force dubbed the "Lightning II."

Lockheed-Martin, now the world's largest defense contractor with more than a $1 trillion new business pipeline, re-invented the way the aerospace industry communicated.