As a business, do you know yours?
When you think of the components of a great story what elements come to mind? Plot, setting, conflict, resolution – all important elements, right? But there is one central story element that underlies each of these elements and that is the relationship between the protagonist and the antagonist – the hero and the villain. Without a struggle between the two any potentially good story will otherwise fall flat. This is also true in terms of content marketing. Let’s take a look specifically at the important role of the villain and how this element of story can propel the success of your marketing efforts.
First off, why do we love a villain? David Robson, in his blog British Psychology Society, describes how when we witness the good vs. evil tension in books or film the empathy network part of our brain displays the greatest response. We long to see our hero shine brightly and triumph over his/her adversary. What is a hero without an adversary to overcome? Marketing expert Donald Miller has some thoughts on this, “Villains deepen our love for the hero of the story and captivate our attention – we keep watching because we want to see our hero take the bad guy down.”
In the same way, incorporating a villain into your marking efforts gives you the opportunity to position your brand as the shining hero that saves the day. As a business owner you are well-acquainted with the hero of your story – the product or service your business provides. In the hands of your customer this product or service equips him/her to do battle against the villain of your story. But who exactly is your villain? What is it that your brand goes to battle against and triumphs over? Is it a competitor, a nagging problem, a lack of knowledge or expertise…? Or maybe it’s crummy customer service, a confusing process or a safety hazard…? This is your story and you can tell it exactly how you want. You may even consider creating a piece of company lore about your brand’s place in the world.
One company that has knocked this ball out of the park is REI. In 2015, the outdoor gear giant took a marketing leap with their #optoutside campaign. They pitted holiday consumerism as the villain, closed the doors to all their retail stores for a day and encouraged consumers to rally against this big bad villain by spending Black Friday making outdoor adventures and hashtaging them on social media. In doing this REI discovered that there are literally millions of people out there who want to join this fight. Long after the Black Friday campaign is over consumers continue to feel a strong sense of brand loyalty to REI by choosing to #optoutside (5.5 million hashtags and counting!) in this worthwhile fight.
Utilizing “the villain” in your brand’s content marketing strategy will not only give your audience something to rally against therefore increasing brand loyalty but it will also make your brand stand out from the competition by highlighting its unique attributes. Mac pulled this off successfully in its series of Mac vs. PC commercials a number of years ago. Mac strategically pitted itself against the PC by personifying PC as boring, nerdy, clunky and irrelevant while casting it alongside of its own hip and progressive image. While the villain in this marketing campaign wasn’t inherently evil, Mac portrayed PC as something many consumers want to rally against – convention for convention’s sake. This campaign won over countless consumers who want to embrace a hip, progressive and more user-friendly personal technology experience as reflected by Mac’s 36% increase in overall sales the first year of the campaign.
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