Every brand video needs a story and every story needs a hero. However, the hero of the video is not your brand, it cannot be. Here’s why.
The story of your brand video does not need to be a complicated Hollywood blockbuster story. Your story can be as simple as ‘helping parents keep their family safe from germs’. But more on that later.
Basic brand video story structure
All stories follow a formula and have certain elements such as:
- A hero
- An antagonist or villain
- A goal or objective to be achieved (the quest)
- A challenge, threat or jeopardy
- Transformation of the hero
These allow the storyteller to give order to the story. This order makes the story easy to understand by the viewer. The main character (the hero) embarks on a quest that is far from certain. Along the way she encounters a challenge which she overcomes and completes the quest.
Here’s an example of our simple story of a parent trying to keep her family safe from germs.
Can you identify the elements of the story?
In this video by Dettol it’s easy to think of Dettol products as being the hero of the story. The products save the family from the antagonist (the evil germs). But this viewpoint does not fit the framework of a story.
Firstly, you could argue that Dettol does have a mission to kill germs, but the products do not embark on the quest on their own.
Secondly, the products will not get ill if they fail in the quest, so there is no jeopardy.
Lastly, the products face no challenge in keeping the house clean and sterile and the brand is not transformed in any way.
And if we wrongly presume that Dettol is the hero, what role does that make our parent in the brand video? Are they a supporting role or maybe a sidekick? That sends a message that the customer is subservient to the brand, which is a very big mistake.
It’s the parent who is the hero. They embark on the quest to keep the family safe from germs. The brand takes a supporting role to facilitates the hero’s quest for a clean home.
- Hero – The parent
- An antagonist or villain – The germs
- A goal or objective to be achieved (the quest) – keeping the home clean and safe
- A challenge, threat or jeopardy – Killing 99.9% of germs
- Transformation of the hero – from owning a dirty dangerous home to owning a clean safe home
But there is another element to storytelling that is often overlooked. The forgotten piece of the puzzle that is present in every story. This element is the guide, someone or something that has the answers and helps the hero on their quest.
In our example, it’s Dettol’s role to help the parent overcome the challenge and they do so by providing products. The brand is the guide in the story that give solutions to the hero’s problems.
Also, your customers do not care about your brand
It sounds harsh, but your customers do not care about your brand. They only care about themselves and what your brand can do for them.
Each day your customers wake up and they are the hero in their own story. They have their own daily quests and face their own challenges. When they face a problem they look for help and guides to help them complete their daily quest.
In your brand video, your business needs to be that guide for your customers. They are the hero and you have to take a supporting role. There is no room for two heroes in any story.
This applies to all stories, from brand videos to movie scripts too.
The cinematic approach
You’ve probably never noticed the role of the guide before but they really are everywhere. You will spot them from now on and it will change the way you look at films and stories.
I’m sure we are all familiar with James Bond who is the hero of each story of the series. James is usually trying to save the world from an evil villain. In each film 007 is guided and helped in his quests by Q who provides knowledge and support in the form of gadgets that usually save James Bond from an untimely death.
If you have not seen Star Wars then I’m not sure we should be friends.
Luke Skywalker is the main character in the original trilogy. His journey takes him through a transformation from Tatooine farmboy to Jedi master. Luke’s quest is to stop Darth Vader and the Empire from evil domination of the universe. His guide through the quest is the all-knowing and ever-patient Yoda. As a Jedi Master himself, Yoda knows all about Luke’s situation as he has seen it all before. Yoda is in a perfect position to mentor and offers wisdom to Luke to keep him on his quest.
Harry Potter’s journey from apparent muggle to wizard is far from straightforward. At Hogwarts Harry has a lot to learn but his ultimate quest is against Voldemort. Throughout all the stories Harry is guided by Dumbledore.
Sarah Connor is the hero and she is guided by Kyle Reese in the original film. The terminator becomes the guide in the second film when he helps Sarah and John defeat the T-1000.
In these films, Yoda, Q and Dumbledore are guides that have the answers to the hero’s problems and help them achieve their quest. Your brand needs to be that guide in your next brand video.
But what does that mean for your brand?
You need to be the guide for your customers. You need to be Q or Yoda in your customers’ story. Like Yoda, you need to take the role of understanding the hero’s problems. Then guide them to using the force that you provide. Or be like Q: offer solutions to the problems your customers will face but don’t yet know it.
Once you understand, this you can shape and craft all your marketing communications, not just brand videos, to help your hero fulfill their quest. You will be their guide to help them through their challenges.
It’s a subtle difference but one that puts your customers at the front and center of your marketing video. It shows them the transformation that they will go through and what your brand will do to help and guide them on their quest.