This article is an excerpt from my new book, Founder Brand, which is available now on Amazon. This is just a little taste before you buy the full book 😉
It’s Saturday night, and you’re cuddled up on the couch with your significant other, watching a movie—for example, Remember the Titans—and the villain is making your blood boil. In that case, the villain is systemic racism.
All great movies, books, stories—and yes, business brands—have a villain or an enemy. Sometimes, the villain is a single person, such as Cruella de Vil in 101 Dalmatians. Sometimes it is a disease, a company, or a team. The status quo is often the villain, as humans strive to improve that which already exists.
You might be wondering if you can have a great business brand without a villain. You can, but I’m going to give you the secret: you create an advantage in marketing when you create a villain. A villain allows you to tap into the art of storytelling, gives you a conflict, and allows for conflict resolution.
You want your brand’s product or service to be seen as the resolution to that conflict. You are here to save the day. Your brand exists to free your customer from this struggle. To relieve their pain. To solve their biggest problem and tackle that hairy challenge they haven’t been able to solve without you.
Your Villain Serves a Purpose
A villain serves a clear purpose in a business brand. It shows your potential customers that you understand their pain, and you want to help them, thus helping form a relationship with them.
At the SaaS company Drift, for example, our villains were those dreaded lead forms you needed to complete to get a simple answer to a question. Everyone hates those forms. How did we use Drift’s villain tactically? We interwove the villain through every aspect of our business communications and marketing.
For example, we created content, such as articles, videos, and podcasts, that rallied our supporters and educated followers about what we were doing to solve the lead form problem. And, we wrote a book about the evils of lead forms and how we had solved the problem. These actions, along with others that incorporated the villain into our business marketing, caused such enthusiasm that it translated to paying customers.
In other words, those lead forms gave us a villain that most people in product marketing could hate with us, and it created a sense of community and a group of customers for Drift.
Make Your Villain Authentic and Obvious
A few lessons on your villain. First, if you are identifying a villain, make sure you aren’t also using that villain in some way. For example, if you started a brand based upon the idea of a healthy alternative to soda for children, it will derail your credibility if every picture you post on your founder’s Instagram account has your children drinking sodas.
You can’t fake this. It has to be a real, authentic part of your brand and story. If you’re a sales coach with a new way of doing sales, prove it. Show your secret sauce. Do your work in public. Show how you’re attacking this villain by actually proving it.
Show your work. Show the results. There can be no misdirection in marketing anymore. Proof and results win, so if you have a better way of doing things, show it. Document it: it’s the best content for social media.
The other thing to remember is that your villain must be obvious. When you talk about your villain, everyone in your niche should nod along like, “Yes! I have this problem too!”
Your Villain Has to Be Real
Ultimately, as important as it is to your marketing to have a villain, your villain can’t be a marketing gimmick. It must be real. For example, at Privy, which had a target audience of small e-commerce businesses, the villain was complexity.
Most small business owners found it too hard, too confusing, or too time consuming to do marketing. At Privy, our mission was to be the brand that helped you conquer that villain.
The result was effective marketing that allowed customers to build profitable e-commerce businesses without having to hire an agency, be an expert in marketing, or have technical website experience. And our customers understood that, in large part because they identified with our villain.
For more advice on how to create a villain for your business brand, you can find Founder Brand on Amazon.