My 4-year-old niece is weird.
She keeps pestering me to tell a story from Harry Potter. Nothing strange about that. A lot of 4-year-olds would do the same. This is the weird part – my niece seems most interested in the story when Harry Potter is in trouble.
Whenever Voldemort is about to attack him…
Or when a dragon is about to burn him…
Or when Basilisk is about to strike him…
Her eyes light up!
Why is that?
For my niece, the villain is non-negotiable. The villain is a crucial ingredient that gives a spine to the entire story.
But it’s not just my niece, is it? Everyone needs a villain. Yes, your audience too.
In this article, let’s talk about who this villain is, why you need one, and how to go about creating one.
Who is a ‘villain’?
The simple definition of a villain is the ‘one thing’ your brand is fighting against. Luke Skywalker was fighting Darth Vader. Frodo was fighting Sauron. Po from Kung Fu Panda was fighting Tai Lung, the evil snow leopard.
(A monk meditating and thinking – The villain is the one thing that your brand is fighting)
And just like that, your brand needs to identify the villain on behalf of your audience.
The villain is why your audience is in pain
The villain is creating problems for your audience. It’s the reason why your audience is struggling. For a ‘productivity software,’ the villain would probably be ‘Distractions.’ But for a meditation teacher, ‘Stress’ would perhaps be the villain.
(These are simplistic examples, of course. There are 100s of productivity software, and not all of them should be fighting the same villain. But more on that on some other day.)
Why do we need a villain?
Wouldn’t it be better to keep things peaceful?
Your audience is in pain, and they are looking for an explanation. They are desperate to find the cause of their pain.
“Why am I suffering?”
“Why do I continue to fail?”
“What is holding back?”
Your brand’s job is to gently convince your audience – “It’s because of this villain”.
If you do your job well, the audience relaxes. Their shoulders drop. Not due to demotivation. But relief. Finally… some explanation! Finally, some answers to their nagging questions.
‘The problem has not been solved yet, no. But now, at least, I know the reason behind my suffering.’
After the relief comes inspiration. Now that your audience has identified the enemy, they feel inspired to fight it. And your brand is the only one that can help them fight this villain.
How do you pick a villain, though?
Do you pick it from thin air? Nope. An effective villain comes from a deep understanding of your ideal audience. After all, the villain is causing pain to your audience, and even before you create this villain, you would need to know what your audience is going through.
Let’s say that Ryan wants to lose weight
Ryan has tried all the fancy diets that consist of broccoli, quinoa, Tofu, and whatnot. All the managers in fancy, expensive gyms know him by now. “Sucker” is what they think silently when they look at him.
But nothing has helped him lose weight. Ryan continues to struggle, trying one diet after the other. His frustration is at an all-time high, and his confidence is at an all-time low.
Okay, let’s take a pause. What do you think is the enemy here? Not sure? Okay, continue reading.
You are a fitness coach that’s going to help Ryan
How do you create a villain for your brand that Ryan resonates with?
What if you made ‘Laziness’ the villain?
No, that’s a terrible villain for 2 reasons. The villain should never be personal. It should not make your audience feel bad about themselves.
Secondly, ‘laziness’ is a terrible villain because we don’t live in the 1960s. There are hundreds and thousands of fitness brands, and targeting ‘laziness’ isn’t innovative enough to make your brand stand out.
Okay, then we are back to square 1, aren’t we?
What is the villain?
The villain was always out in the open
If you re-read Ryan’s situation, you would perhaps realize that Ryan is struggling, not because of his laziness or sub-standard diet advice. Ryan is struggling because he is following fancy, unsustainable diets. There itself is the villain.
The villain = Fancy, unsustainable diets
The new way = Flexible, sustainable diets
As a fitness coach, you could start criticizing this villain of fancy diets and promote flexible, sustainable diets. There you go – Not only have we identified the villain, but we have also identified the new way our brand will prescribe.
Another example is Jonathan Stark
To further understand this concept deeper, do visit the website of Jonathan Stark who has done an excellent job in choosing his villain – Hourly Billing.
Time to create your villain
There is no need to overthink. Finding the villain is just a matter of time if you know your audience well. And if you need to test the effectiveness of your villain, my niece and I would always be up to hearing your story.