3 Marketing Lessons from Famous Antagonist Characters

Drama begins with the hero and the villain. These two crucial story elements generate excitement for audiences, and often form the backbone of an emotional journey. We develop varying levels of empathy with these characters, and respond emotionally to their values and desires. In marketing, reputable businesses recreate this same drama through their own hero-villain dynamic.

However, good storytelling relies on a keen understanding of audience psychology. Perhaps surprisingly, a decision to frame yourself as the hero can sometimes give audiences the impression that you’re actually the villain. Here we explore three examples of this important phenomenon, as depicted by Homelander from The Boys, Syndrome from The Incredibles, and Thanos from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Our video production agency in Bangkok, Thailand examines why these efforts backfired, and what lessons businesses should learn from them.

Image isn’t everything

Homelander from The Boys is an antagonist who gradually develops psychopathic traits. His narcissism and his need to be adored by the general population – who would reject him if they realized what he truly was like underneath his phony grin – are the only things holding him in check. Yet this desire to be loved can lead to the kind of false, self-aggrandizing behavior that sets off alarm bells in ordinary people.

In business, where the need to gain customer trust and loyalty are always central goals, openness and transparency are key. Imagine, for example, that you are a customer whose emails have been ignored or overlooked. You’ll appreciate an honest explanation and apology from the company far more than a pretty lie.

Don’t create a problem only to save the day

It’s a common misconception that customers are looking for heroes or top-tier problem solvers, when in fact they’re more often interested in getting on with their own lives. In some cases, antagonists create problems intentionally just to show how good they are at solving them. They put themselves at the center of the situation, rather than putting their customers there.

Syndrome from The Incredibles creates a killing machine that destroys a town, just so that he can conquer it later in front of the public and be celebrated as a hero. His plan fails, of course – but all the while, if only he had paid attention to the real issues that ordinary people had to deal with, and used his abilities to solve them, he could have been a genuine hero to everyone around him.

Empathy is always needed

Empathy is one of the primary factors that separate successful companies from unsuccessful ones. When clients believe that their voices are being heard, and that the business is making every effort to assist them, they will associate their deeply held values with those of the brand.

In the Avengers movies, Thanos sees himself as the protagonist of his own tale, while everyone else sees him as the antagonist. Rather than serving people by listening to them, Thanos is simply concerned with completing his purpose, and has no regard for anybody else in the cosmos.

These three antagonists could have accomplished more, and been remembered more fondly, if they had set out to help people rather than step over them for their own glory. People are highly sensitive to how they are viewed and treated, and will reward companies whose messaging avoids these pitfalls, and hits the right notes of empathy. Let our social media agency in Bangkok, Thailand and motion graphics agency in Thailand elevate your brand image in line with the objectives of your company – and its customers.


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