The best brands tell a good story. This is something you’ve most likely heard over and over again. But what we’ve found is that many brands tend to leave out one of the most important elements of the story. And it’s an element that help shapes every other part of the story: Conflict.
Yeah, most of us try to avoid conflict. And that’s a good thing in your normal everyday life. But when you’re telling your brand’s story, you should embrace it.
Take a second and think about your favorite stories. Got it? Now remove the conflict. Harry Potter without Voldemort? Lord of the Rings without Sauron and the ring? It’s impossible. Without conflict, you’re left with a boring story—really, it’s no story at all. Think about everything conflict does for a story…
It builds interest. If the conflict the protagonist faces is boring or mundane, the story is probably not interesting. Conflict is used to draw people in and move the story along. It’s what creates a story’s rising action, which builds to the story’s climax. It’s adds depth to a story.
It spurs reflection or introspection. Stories are captivating because they capture some truth about life. Regardless of whether it’s a lighthearted comedy or a serious drama, conflict identifies something that is not as it ought to be. And this often spurs reflection or introspection about our own lives as we draw parallels to how the protagonist wrestle’s with conflict in a story.
G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.” Regardless of our age, a good story often shapes how we view the world.
It develops the characters. Character development happens as a result of the adversity—internal or external—the character faces in the story. (I think there’s a leadership lesson in there somewhere, but that’s for another post.) What would of happened to Simba had Rafiki and Nala not encouraged him to face Scar? It would just be a story about a lazy lion who’s father was tragically killed.
Next time one of your favorite commercials comes on TV, take a second and reflect on why it resonates with you so much. My guess is they used conflict to point out some reality about the world, and then suggested their was a better way.
Let’s look at a recent example…
This Budweiser commercial aired during the 2017 Super Bowl, and it tells the story of how Adolphus Busch traveled to America to brew Budweiser. In it Busch is shown enduring hardships as an immigrant, and is told at one point, “You’re not wanted here.” Towards the end of the commercial he meets Eberhard Anheuser, who buys him a beer.
Budweiser is generally considered a very “American” beer—it even printed America on it’s cans last year. And what’s more American than someone traveling to the United States to pursue a dream, especially in the face of adversity and hardship? The way that Budweiser leans into the adversity their founder faced as he traveled to the United States allows them to portray their brand as rugged and forged in chasing the “American Dream.”
Remember this aired during the Super Bowl, one of the most watched sporting events of the year, and while a heated national debate about immigration was taking place. While Budweiser downplayed any connection to the national debate, I find it hard to believe it was a coincidence. And I also doubt Budweiser regretted the commercial as it created a national discussion leading up to and after the Super Bowl.
I get it. You’re probably not running a business like Budweiser. And it may not be the best idea for your small business to release marketing messages around highly sensitive subjects. So how does this apply to you?
The point of conflict in a brand story is to identify a pain point or need. And regardless of what you do, your business probably (hopefully) solves a specific pain point or meets a need for a specific type of person. It doesn’t have to be as dramatic as immigration, but it should be clear.
For instance, let’s say you’re a family photographer. What’s the pain point or conflict? One might be the parents’ anxiety around getting the kids to behave and cooperate. Once you’ve identified the pain point, then you can use that conflict in your marketing messages to make it more compelling.
Perhaps on Instagram you post two photos—one with a smiling kid and his family, and the other with the same kid crying. Then in your caption you say something like: Swipe left to see the “before” shot. I love working with families because… [insert awesome story about why you love working with families—even crying children—and how you take these things in stride because you’re a boss].
In that simple post you sent the following messages: 1) You do great work. And 2) parents don’t have to fret about uncooperative children because you’re a professional and are totally ready to handle such situations in stride. By embracing the “conflict,” you’ve removed a potential obstacle a parent might have to overcome before booking you. And you’ve already improved the experience before it’s really started. Instead of fretting in the hours leading up to the shoot worrying about her kids, the parents can relax knowing their in the hands of a professional who gets that kids are, well, kids.
And if you’re a wedding photographer or a wedding planner? There is plenty of conflict when it comes to weddings. Think about how overwhelming the planning process can be for couples and what can you do to ease that process.
So as you think through conflict in your brand’s story, try thinking through a few questions like: Why do people hire you? And more specifically, why do people hire you instead of others who provide a similar product or service? What need do you meet? Why did you decide to offer this service or product?
Conflict adds more depth and dimension to your brand’s story. Don’t avoid it!
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