Think for a second about your favourite character from a book you’ve read or a film you’ve watched. Or maybe that favourite character is from a television show, or even a podcast? What about this character makes them so great? Memorable? Is your character a hero or villain? What makes a character a hero or a villain for you?
A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man
- Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces
Is part of their appeal because you see yourself in them? Or rather, that you want to be them or have their experiences (and rewards, of course)? We all, on some level, would like to be the hero in an epic story, after all.
The main thing is here is that successful stories have compelling characters; without them, tales fall flat. So how are captivating characters created?
There’s a formula that writers like to follow in order to create compelling characters – be it heroes or villains – for their stories:
MC wants (External Goal) because (External Motivation) but (External Conflict).
Let’s look at this in a bit more detail: Characters, they say, have wants. These wants are governed by goals. Their goals come about because of motivation, but they always – and this is the crux of all the most memorable, most real characters – experience a conflict that prevents them from achieving their goals.
Now, I’m not asking that the pharmaceutical industry write the next New York Times Bestseller, or make a Hollywood blockbuster out of their brands.
But I believe there is something to this idea of making their customers the hero of their brand’s story, and not necessarily making the brand itself the hero.
It’s easy to walk into a physician’s office and tell them why a brand is the best product to treat their patients (typically this is done in the form of data). But does this truly impress physicians? Yes, it will, because they are medically trained to recognise superior products.
But what about when it is a crowded market space, where data for these products is similar and there isn’t much that can help to differentiate between them?
Physician wants to treat patients (Goal) because this is his job and it makes him feel happy (Motivation) but he doesn’t know which treatment is best (Conflict).
By discussing your brand with your customer in this way, you are putting them at the centre of the story and helping them to fulfil their own needs but also be the hero for their patients.
Of course, this can be different depending on which culture you are in. For example, in the West heroes are typically individuals (e.g. Superman) whilst in the East they are often based on a collective’s triumphs. Knowing your market and your target customer is the key to any successful marketing strategy and one you must explore before you develop your brand story.
And again, who doesn’t wish to be a hero?
This article was written by Sofia Fionda Senior Research Executive at Branding Science