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Why Your Business needs a Villain

Pepsi vs Coca Cola

It's no secret that for years Pepsi pitched itself as the alternative to Coca-Cola and Apple's Mac was always seen as "exciting and creative" compared to Microsoft PC "dull and boring" software. Big Brands often name their nemesis whilst still making it entertaining and fun.

While most marketers and communication executives are aware of the need to make their customers the hero in their brand messages they often fail to define what they stand against. Having a common enemy can be a powerful way to create a sense of unity and shared purpose among your customers. Often our audiences are unaware of their problems - they might know the symptom but fail to correctly identify why they have a problem. Putting a villain in your marketing messages gives them something they can see themselves overcoming with the help of your product or service and gives them clarity and motivation to take action. Where to find your villains Villains come in many forms, a good place to start is to think about all the obstacles that are standing in your customer's way when trying to reach their ideal destination. External: Identifying your villain can often be as simple as personifying a real symptom that your brand empowers its customers to overcome. For example, oral care brands fight weak gums or bad breath, Calendly's scheduling automation platform fights to eliminate the back-and-forth emails and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings recently said that their main "villain" is sleep.

Difflam, a throat spray used visuals in their recent ads to show the different types of coughs their heroes are fighting against.

Difflam Copywriting ad

Nike Greatness is scary until is isn't Find your Greatness ad

Internal: This could be an internal obstacle or belief the hero has to overcome to achieve their transformation. It can be clutter, procrastination, perfectionism, and so on. Nike fights fear with their ‘Just Do It’ tagline as the war cry their heroes use to motivate themselves against being scared.

When writing content for your audience - consider using their villain. I have a simple process that allows me to put my audience's “Enemy” in my content:

Start With My Sub-Topics Whenever I write an article I focus on my Main Umbrella topic, Communication which I break into different sub-topics. Some of my sub-topics include:

  • Copywriting

  • Storytelling

  • Internal Communication

  • Content Marketing

Next, I assign an Enemy to Each Sub-Topic as a Perspective Let’s take the sub-topic “Internal Communication” I can easily jot down a few perspectives that I agree with and craft a counterpart (my villain).

  • Perspective: Internal Communication will connect with your audience if you write to the 1 person

  • Enemy: Internal Communication doesn't have a target audience

  • Perspective: Your Audience wants to know What's in it for them

  • Enemy: Internal Communications is the Company's POV

By completing this exercise, I’m creating “enemies” that I can talk about as well as spark conversations with those who either agree or disagree.

Another good use of your villains is in your hooks. Let's say you write about Finance - and your subtopics include:

  • Savings

  • Investment

  • Inflation

Assign a villain to your subtopics.

  • Saving - Bank Rates

  • Investment - Confusing Terminology

  • Taxes - Government Policy

And place your common enemy into your Hook.

  • Bank Rates eating into your Savings?

  • Confused where to Invest your hard-earned cash?

  • How the Government's 19B1 will affect you.

Whatever you are fighting against it must relate to your customer . Find a common villain within your target market and make sure your product is the villain’s Kryptonite. And that's a wrap- Does your brand have a villain? I’d love to hear what you come up with— you can join the conversation on Twitter and Linkedin

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