When you read a great book (or watch a great series on Netflix) it’s easy to become captivated by it.
Storytellers know how to hook you. They write the story so you feel part of the adventure yet most brands haven’t caught on yet. A compelling brand story positions the audience as the protagonist.
When you find yourself sniffling into your partner’s jumper, or jamming your nails into their arm, the writer has got you where they want you.
They will have written the story in a way that draws you in and makes you feel that whatever is happening to the character, is happening to you.
The reason you get so involved is that the role of the main character is a familiar one. in your life, it’s you.
You spend every waking hour of the day playing that role. Whether you’re meeting someone new, getting away for a holiday or winning that contract, you are the main character of the story that is your life.
A good writer will be able to draw you into their story, so you see yourself in the characters and become emotionally invested yet most brands (who have increasingly become brand story writers) haven’t quite grasped this concept.
They simply present a biased autobiography of why they’re so great with no room for the audience in their story. They douse themselves in the limelight and in doing so, leave a positioning gap for their competition to write a hero’s role for their shared audience.
The Customer Is King – Just Not The Hero
We have all heard the old business clichés such as “the customer king” or “the customer is always right”. There is an understanding from a business perspective that the business exists to serve this customer as best they can, in order to win their business.
Making the customer happy is par for the course. There’s no groundbreaking paradigm shift here, it’s simply the way things are.
Even though most business owners will claim that this is their position, few leave their protagonist role and continue to communicate with their audience as though they (not their audience) are the main character in the brand story.
Your Brand Story is All About We We We
Businesses today wax lyrical about who WE are, what WE do, how WE do it, what WE stand for. When business leaders remain in their role as the main character, the company’s communication reflects that with tales of expertise, accomplishments and abilities.
The real hero of any business story is, you guessed it, the customer. When the customer looks for a product or service to enhance their lives, they are looking for guidance, not a hero. They already have a hero in their own story and that is not limelight that they want to share with just anyone.
Even if your brand archetype is “The Hero”, you’re not the hero, you’re inspiring the Hero.
The Limelight Paradigm Shift IS Illuminating
This is one of the biggest paradigm shifts for business leaders to make when it comes to their brand message. Even though they say that the “customer is king” their communication positions themselves as the hero, a role that is not theirs to play. Instead, they should be playing the supporting role and guide the hero along the path to their goal.
It’s understandable that when communicating with their audience, a brand will drape a cape around their abilities and describe in detail, conquests and accomplishments. They paint a picture of a hero that swoops in and saves the day for their helpless customer… “Step aside madam, we’ve got this!”
That limelight, however, is not theirs to take. In fact, when a business claims that limelight for themselves, they are keeping from their audience, the very thing they’re trying to offer them.
Emotional Transactions Build Brands
Any business, whether they sell tax solutions or ice-cream, are not selling the product or service, rather the emotional feeling on the back of that solution. The customer is buying the end result and paying you for the guidance to get them there.
At the beginning of any story, the main character is in position A (often a situation of difficulty and problem) and by the end, they are in position B (where they have been unshackled from these problems). This is the scene where they are at the top of a hill covered in limelight and glory before the credits roll.
When a person does their tax at the end of the financial year, and the stress has been removed for another 12 months, they pat themselves on the back for getting it done. Even though an accountant did the legwork, they made the call, they engaged and got the ball rolling, they have taken care of it and as such, they are the hero of that little story.
The Role Your Brand Is Meant To Play
Your brand is not Daniel-Son, that’s your audience. Your Brand is Miyagi.
Brands that position themselves as the hero, compete with their own audience for that limelight and in doing so, often confuse and alienate them.
When a person hears or reads about your abilities and accomplishments, they are no longer the hero in their own story, but a bystander in your story, looking in, at you, the hero.
Brands that flip that limelight, and become part of their customer’s story rather than asking their customer’s to become part of theirs, confirm to their audience what they already feel. You are the hero, and We are simply here to help you along the path to glory.
This subtle shift in communication allows a brand to step out of the limelight and turn it on their audience, earning themselves a role in their audiences’ life story. It’s not the lead role, but the role they were meant to play.
Thank You For Being My Guide
If you have positioned your brand to play the supporting role to your hero audience, then chances are they are responding and you have likely heard comments such as “we feel you understand us” or “when I read your content it sounded exactly like me”.
If however, you feel that you have a great product or service and solve a problem that people are having, but you’re not connecting and resonating as well as you could, then repositioning your brand story might be missing link on your path to glory (you might have just recognised that you, as the reader, are the hero in this little story).
So, How Do You Shift Your Position?
Start with your website copy and your sales script. Chances are they’re riddled with the terms “we”, “us” and “our”. If you’re using these words then it’s because you’re telling your story which is not what your audience is interested in.
They are interested in their story and are looking for a way to improve it. They are therefore looking for references to them such as “You” “Your” and “You’re”.
They want to know that you understand the problems they have, where they want to get to, and that you can support them in their journey to that destination.
Know Your Hero And Their Adventure
Knowing your audience and the problems they are having is key.
When you start to tell their story on the journey from position A to position B with your brand playing that supporting role, you fit into their lives seamlessly and will often become that missing link on their road to glory.
Like all elements of branding, your story should position your brand not in the limelight, but in possession of it, pointing it at your audience.
Make them the hero. Don’t sell your product or service; sell the “hero status” that you will help them to achieve.
So lay out the red carpet from position A to position B, stand to the side, hold their hand to get them there and encourage them to bask in the glory or their accomplishments.