Why your brand needs to pick a fight

Lisa D'Andrea
Aug 26, 2019
Branding

Darth Vader.

The Joker.

Voldemort.

Scar.

Annie Wilkes.

Every great story has a villain. The hero’s nemesis is often the catalyst the hero needs to make a really important change. And just like your favourite books and movies, every great brand story has its own powerful villain too.

In the marketing world, villains are the ideas that oppose what your customers believe in or aspire to become. They’re the actions, systems, beliefs or injustices that prevent the hero from winning the day.

For example, Gather, a desk organisation system) names their customer’s villain as ‘clutter’. Keeps, a hair loss treatment has their customers battling baldness. And Apple (back in the day) picked a fight against rigid, stagnant technologies and their users.

Why does your brand need an enemy?

It re-affirms your customer’s social identity

Our social identities play a huge role in our purchasing behaviours. Whether we shop at Kmart or Chanel, the things we buy help us to reaffirm our belonging to certain groups and distance ourselves from others. 

For example, Clementine might buy a Prius if she considers herself to be environmentally conscious. As she drives around, her purchase visibly demonstrates that she's playing an active role in the fight against pollution and non-renewable energies. And it reinforces her identity both in her own mind and with others.

Having a visible enemy makes it easy for your customers to understand who or what your brand stands against and in turn, whether buying from your brand fits with their social identity.

It encourages action

If you've ever experienced health symptoms without knowing the cause, you'll know how frustrating it is not being able to pinpoint the problem. Trying solutions might feel like a stab in the dark, because you don't know the root cause.

Well, when we invite our customer to become the hero in our brand story, they might only know the symptoms of their problem too. We need to help them identify the cause of what’s getting in the way of their success (their villain). Because, once they can name their enemy, they can also get the clarity and motivation to take action against them.

Who’s your brand’s enemy?

So what’s stopping your customers from achieving the success they really want? Here are some tips for identifying your brand villain—

  • Remember that your brand enemy isn’t how your customers feel, it’s the cause of those feelings.
  • You might be able to think of several villains for your brand, but focus on just one that is consistent with the rest of your brand story. 
  • Try and avoid picking a competitor as your brand villain. Maybe it’s what those competitors represent or how they operate that are the real enemy.
  • Your villain might not be something that everyone dislikes or considers to be wrong/evil.

Does your brand have a villain? I’d love to hear what you come up with— share them in the comments below! And if you liked this article or think it could help someone who’s building their brand don’t forget to share it!

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