The idiot’s guide to marketing, chapter 6

A brand must be built on a living soul and a genuine dramaturgy. To be cultural and social, it must be based on a narrative, a tale that can be retold. And like all good stories, it should contain some form of heroism, a drama that your target group can identify with.

The whole scenario is reminiscent of Hollywood’s dream factory. Everything deals with dramaturgy, conflict, character and action; that’s probably why you would rather watch a film, or read a book, than watch the TV commercials. Hollywood knows how to capture its public. When the advertising industry fights to hold your interest for 30 seconds, Hollywood stories have us transfixed to the TV screen for up to two hours. So the question is: can the business world learn anything from the film industry?

You bet.

Fundamental dramaturgy deals with the moulding of a character (the brand’s personality). It is essential that this character has both good and bad sides (functional, psychological and social qualities), otherwise we would find it hard to identify with her. The character also has to have a long-term goal in life (vision) so we know where she is heading (strategic direction).

And more importantly, she must stumble across obstacles along the way in her quest for success. This leads us to two crucial elements: in one part, attention, and in the other part, to force the character into action (tactic), which is the first prerequisite for a story.

The obstacles function as challenges for the principle character. They have to be sufficiently difficult to demand a large portion of courage (feelings means drive) from our character to accept them. If she manages to overcome, she grows in stature and becomes almost heroic.

All stories are built on some kind of valour. It is, after all, the hero that we identify with.

In short: no identification without the hero. No hero without challenges. Challenges don’t appear out of thin air, they must be built on friction, the hero’s own problems. So now you know what differentiates the film industry from the advertising industry.

Friction.

It is an ingredient that the business world loathes as much as a groundsman loathes moles. In Hollywood they call it conflict, the art of all good narratives. Friction is presumably the reason why we are more familiar with a character like Dirty Harry than a brand like Opel.

It is strange, as Dirty Harry is an old character from the seventies who is very rarely seen today. Nevertheless, most people know how he thinks and acts, what drives him and what scares him.

For instance, what does Dirty Harry have that Opel lacks?

Friction?
Conflict?
A long-term goal?
A distinct direction?
A fundamental drama that appeals to us deep within, as opposed to the run-of-the-mill core values?

Remember Paul Potts? He was a shy, uglyfaced, and chubby mobile-phone salesman from South Wales, who liked to sing opera in front of the mirror. One day he entered Britain’s Got Talent, and he sang Nessun Dorma in such a way that he nearly knocked Simon Cowell off his chair, made Amanda Holden cry like a baby – and to top that off: won the whole competition, got 25 million hits on YouTube and became world famous in a blink of an eye.

Now, was this because he was the best opera singer the world has ever heard, or seen?
Or was it because he acted like a true hero and accepted a challenge that would make the rest of us look the other way?
Was it because he evoked the classic archetypal story about the ugly duckling?
Was it because of what he made us feel?

A strong personality is interesting as it is two-fold. It contains advantages and weaknesses, ambitions and fears. The good characteristics are the ones we strive to identify with. The weak ones give credibility to our character, but also create friction, which in turn gets our attention when it is put to the test.

Almost everything that is worth narrating emanates from our archetypes. The old yarns are given eternal life as they are respun and become a part of popular culture. It deals with about a dozen primary dramas that we can roughly split into four fundamental personal themes. All four themes describe the characters that are necessary for the individual strategies to achieve success and balance, while sharing the same overall aspiration.

One course aims to win power, stability and control. (A rough course that can later be divided into three more detailed features that draws strength from the myths of the caring mother, the inspirational leader and the meticulous gatekeeper.)

At the other extreme we find those that seek change. (In this group you will find characters such as the lawless rebel, the intrepid hero and the innovative creator.)

We have a third group that fights to escape the collective and achieve independence. (Here you have the detached guru in his ivory tower, the lone wolf and the naive virgin.) This group is contradictory to the fourth theme, which deals with the creating of fellowship and intimacy. (Here you meet the class clown, the loyal friend and the attractive seducer.)

One thing they all have in common is a strong endeavour to succeed. But where is the friction, the drama that makes everything interesting?

A personal drama arises through frustration and obstacles. One peculiarity that you find in all humans is that of hope. Hope for change. We always aspire after something that we don’t have, which in turn leads to a want or fear.

For example, someone who fears solitude dreams of a collective community. And contrary, someone who feels suppressed by the collective community is desperate to brake free.

Consequently a person who experiences the feeling of being diminished by power and authority wants change. And a person who feels discomfort in the presence of chaos and disorder leans towards stability and control.

The trick is to identify where your target group belongs. When you have succeeded with that, you will know which buttons to press.

The story about Camitz Sparkling derives courage from the myths about changes. The base of the story is about the rebel, hero and inventor and their fight for progress. Not to mention a part of the seducer’s archetype, a personality that seeks intimacy through devotion, sexiness, sensitivity, luxury and passion.

Just like the rain after sun, it is usual for an important objection to be raised: Is it really necessary to build a brand?

The answer is no. There are, of course, exceptions.

Read the next chapter on Mine goes to eleven, September 6: “When branding doesn’t work.”

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