I had a fantastic opportunity this past weekend – I got to take my son, Allen, to see Raiders of the Lost Ark on the big screen at the Pink Palace Museum in Memphis. I felt like I was 5 again, and Allen felt like he was, well still 5. I’ve seen this movie over 100 times in 30 years and can throw out some of the best Indiana Jones quotes, but seeing it on the big screen again I realized how it stands the test of time – it’s powerful storytelling. Later, Allen was acting out scenes pretending to be Indiana Jones, and I realized something else. We like to see ourselves as the hero when we see a story.
Lots of brands and individuals have taken to storytelling as the way they communicate with their customers, audience, peers and friends. But there’s a bit of debate when brands want to define who the hero is in their story.
So who’s the hero in your brand’s story? It’s not who you think. If you’re telling the story about your brand, you are not the hero.
If I’m not the hero, who is?
One of the most common mistakes companies make in their communications is to show their company or their product as the hero of the story. It’s understandable why they want to do this because, like my son, everyone likes to see themselves as the hero. Here’s the rub – if you want to influence your audience, if you want customers to buy from you, you must tell a story where the customer is the hero – not you.
Don’t just take my word for it. MarketingProfs’ Chief Content Officer, Ann Handley regularly says, “Make your customer the hero of your story.”
Customers are always tuned in to their favorite radio station WIIFM – What’s In It For Me? (People do still listen to the radio, right? Sometimes?). You know who customers care about the most? Themselves. To them, you come a distant second.
So your company was founded 75 years ago? They don’t care.
So you’ve received prestigious awards 5 years in a row? They don’t care.
So your latest product has 12 features, all designed to reduce costs and increase revenue? They don’t care.
When you place yourself in the hero role it doesn’t matter if you tell this story with all the enthusiasm and confidence in the world. You’re making a huge mistake, because you’re turning the customer into a minor character in the story when they see themselves as the hero.
And this concept isn’t just limited to your customers. Consider your personal brand story. Are you managing a team? Your employees are the heroes. Are you interviewing for a job? The hiring manager is the hero.
Okay, so I’m not the hero. Then who am I?
Great news! You still get to play a role. And in your audience’s eyes, it’s a major one. Every hero needs a guide, a mentor, a sage. You get to be the one who emparts wisdom to the hero. You get to be the one who gives the hero the tools, weapons, knowledge they need to succeed. You’ve been through this dilemma before, and you know how to get past it. They can trust you. You’re Yoda. You’re Gandalf. You’re Glinda (the good witch).You’re Haymitch. You’re Dumbledore. You’re Ms. Norbury. Get it? You are absolutely important here. Without you, the hero doesn’t move forward, does not pass Go and stays stuck in their day-to-day dilemma. Now on the inside, you’ll feel like a hero and get to celebrate every time your audience and customers keep coming back to you for more.
Okay, we’ve established who the hero is. So is there a villain?
Every story has a villain, or at least a problem that needs solving. Your brand’s story is no different. What’s stopping your customer, your audience from moving forward and from achieving all their goals? That’s the villain. Not only that, but the deep internal and emotional frustrations they have from not achieving their goals is the super villain.
Think of it like this. If you provide tax accounting to small businesses, your brand’s hero is that business owner who wants to focus on their business, not in their business. Their lack of understanding of managing their taxes and finances? That’s the villain. Their deep frustrations, emotional concerns and intimidation from the possibility that they may be losing money, or worse, being called out by the IRS for inaccurate payments? That’s the super villain. As the guide, you’re here to help the hero defeat those villains.
How does my customer defeat the villain?
This one’s pretty simple. Your customer defeats their villain and solves their problem through your service.
Your product? It’s a lightsaber.
Your consulting? It’s the enlightened knowledge that tells exactly where the Ark of the Covenant is and what not to do with it (Spoiler Alert: Don’t touch it! Don’t open it!).
You want the story of the hero defeating the villain to be a quick one, right? Don’t make your audience guess. Don’t give them riddles to solve. Give them what they need in the most straightforward, concise, simple way. Give them a clear call to action. Otherwise they may go find another guide to help them.
Great! So now what?
Now it’s time to review all the ways you communicate to your audience. What does that look like? Can your audience clearly see themselves as the hero? If not, start changing it. Either remove or flip every story that’s about you. Here’s a hint: every time your content says “we” or “I,” your customer isn’t the hero. From now on, everything else you create and write needs to pass the WIIFM test. When you place the customer as the hero, everyone wins. When everyone wins, your brand’s story lives happily ever after.
Question: What can you do to show the customer as the hero?