You are not the hero. The customer is the hero. Your marketing campaigns should position your brand as the guide in your customer’s story.
The previous blog in this series gave an overview of the seven steps of storytelling, and how they can be used to create a compelling marketing story for your customers.
Just as a refresher, the seven steps focus on:
- The hero
- The problem
- The guide
- The plan
- The call to action
- Avoiding failure
- Embracing success
Every step in the framework is important, but here we will pay special attention to the most critical step of all – Step 3: The guide. We’ve lost count of the number of big marketing campaigns that get this step wrong, with the result that their stories fall apart. Special attention and care should indeed be paid to this crucial step.
In almost every great story, the hero meets a guide who shows them the way to success and their greater selves. The Fairy Godmother transforms Cinderella for the ball. Morpheus shows Neo the key to the Matrix. Gandalf gives Bilbo Baggins “a little push out the door”. Tala teaches her granddaughter Moana to trust the sea rather than fear it.
Customers don’t need another hero. They need a guide. When marketers position themselves as a hero, customers will be inclined to tune them out, because they sense a rival instead of the adviser they truly need. From a marketer’s perspective, playing a supporting role is nothing to be ashamed of; indeed, the guide is often the strongest and most respected character in the story. And, that’s what you want to be – a wise and trustworthy mentor to your customers.
Tidal vs Spotify
Spotify and Tidal are both music streaming services. Yet most of the people who read this will likely have Spotify accounts, while many have never even heard of Tidal.
So, why is Spotify so much more popular than its competitor? Arguments can be made as to which one provides the better service, but there’s no question as to which one tells the better story.
Tidal was launched on March 30, 2015. Jay-Z, the principal investor, brought a slew of successful recording artists from different genres – Madonna, Deadmau5, Rihanna, and many others – on stage with him for the launch party.
“The challenge is to get everyone to respect music again, to recognize its value,” Jay-Z said. “If you want to hear the most beautiful song, then support the artist.”
Jay-Z is arguably the most successful, and therefore most supported, hip hop artist of all time. Chastising fans for not supporting him and artists like Madonna, Usher and Nikki Minaj came off as spoiled and greedy. Unsurprisingly, Tidal did not come anywhere near their expectations of success. Jay-Z has been a brilliant self-promoter his entire career, but the lack of a good marketing story for Tidal might be one of his 99 problems. Had he positioned music listeners as the heroes and the artists as guides, Tidal would have told a much better story.
Spotify, on the other hand, did exactly that. It delivered a simple, catchy message: Soundtrack your life. Spotify’s story puts the customer at the center of the story, positioning the brand as a helpful playlist guide that can keep you entertained as you enjoy each day.
Some reports have Tidal valued at $600 million, which sounds very impressive until you consider that it is absolutely dwarfed by Spotify’s estimated value of nearly $30 billion. There are surely a lot of variables at play here, but there is no doubt that Spotify’s better marketing story is a major reason for its success.
It’s not about us, it’s about our customers
Positioning the customer as the hero helps with good storytelling, but it is also at the heart of good business practice. When companies begin to step outside of their own perspective, and start worrying about the success of their customers, they will be in a better position to succeed. This isn’t a paradox. Being the guide instead of the hero demonstrates the empathy and authority that customers need, making the business more attuned to their wants and desires.
Once you’ve established yourself as a trustworthy guide, your customers will confidently follow the path to success that you lay out for them. In marketing, as in business, the guide is vital to the success of the hero.
Lexicon is a full-service digital marketing agency in Bangkok, Thailand. We specialize in corporate storytelling and produce all of our content in-house, including branding, copywriting, video production and graphic design. We bring all of our services together and use Digital PR and social media marketing storytelling to connect our clients with the ideal target audience.