Copywriting and fiction writing are two completely different disciplines, having nothing to do with each other. True or false? Well, your credibility as a copywriter demands that you stick to the truth, whereas fiction is untrue by definition. And yet certain principles apply to both.
In an interview, Hollywood actor Will Smith talked about the early days of his career. Although known for comedy, he selected a different film genre — “critter movies.”
His first blockbuster success, Independence Day, featured huge, ugly space critters, intent on destroying mankind.
Smith said he chose the genre because of its worldwide appeal. What make them so popular? Moviegoers love a great villain!
What makes good guys good?
Movie heroes have admirable qualities; they’re good-looking, brave and strong. Think of Will Smith dragging the carcass of a space creature across the desert.
But more than that, heroes are good in comparison to the villain.
Sure, Will Smith is handsome and likeable. But it was the vile critters that, through contrast, elevated him to hero status.
Characters in your marketing story
I know what you’re thinking. The villain in your marketing story is that pesky competitor of yours.
Your marketing story isn’t about you or your competitors; it’s about your Customers.
Textbook definitions of marketing vary. Here’s the best one I’ve seen.
“[Marketing is] the art of telling a story that resonates with your audience and then spreads.”
Seth Godin, interview by Robert Bruce, IMFSP radio
As usual, Mr. Godin sums it up nicely. If your audience can recognize themselves in your marketing story, it has done its job.
The Customer’s role
Most marketing stories are self-focused — focused on the company. It’s a mistake. A smarter strategy is to make the Customer the focal point.
Why? Because those in your market need to see themselves in the role of your Customer before doing business with you.
The most dangerous word
So be careful with the word “I” or “we” or any of its variants. Too often, marketing messages describe all the wonderful things “we” can do for you.
That’s OK if you’ve already established a great relationship with those in your market. But for prospects you’re courting, take the time to demonstrate that you know a lot about them, the problems he or she faces, and what it would mean for them to solve those problems.
Then you’re ready to deliver your “I” messages.
Identifying the real enemy
So who is your Customer’s enemy?
Well, it may not be a “who” at all; it may be a “what” — a problem that keeps them up at night. A vexing problem for which they need a solution. A problem you’re ready, willing and able to solve.
Kinds of enemies
Oh sure, in your mind, the villain may be a real person or category of people.
For example, an accountant might position the tax office as a villain, out to make you pay too much in taxes. Or a holistic therapist might cast the medical establishment in the role of villain.
But be careful. Carried to extremes, this type of positioning can make you seem mean-spirited — an unattractive image.
Telling your story
Then (and only then) it’s about your role as hero of the story: how you deliver a solution that is elegant and affordable — perfect for those in your market.
Designing your message
It’s not possible to reach out to people you don’t know and describe their individual characteristics. But you can talk about their villain: the problems and obstacles they face, their successes and failures.
Will that resonate with every one? No, only with those you are best able to serve.
They’re looking for you, hoping you’re the one who can help. They’ll be amazed at how much you know about them (and their villain) and be grateful for your help.
And they’ll tell their friends.