Your Brand Has Main Character Syndrome12.16.21

Your Brand Has Main Character Syndrome

“Main Character Syndrome” isn’t in Webster’s dictionary, but it’s something with which we’re increasingly becoming familiar: the idea that we as individuals believe we are the main character of life, and that the universe is creating its plot based on how we are affected.

It’s something we might observe in others — or, in self-reflective modes, within ourselves. When we step back, we know that’s not true.

But it is hard sometimes to know the difference.

Organizations can fall into this trap as it relates to their brands. The idea that their brand is the main character in the life of someone in their audience. So if you simply make an audience aware that you exist or what you want them to do, they'll run with it from there.

The reality, though, is that it probably isn’t the main character. Given how rare it is to achieve main character status, is that even a worthy aspiration? I say no. People are busy, and their concerns (especially after the last few years) are much more immediate than your brand. And that’s ok!

Embracing that opens a new line of possibility of how your brand can benefit from your audience. Or, even better, how you can benefit each other.

It forces you to really think about your audience, and what the main characters are in their lives. It’s likely many of the same things in yours: how are the relationships in their lives? Is everyone healthy? How do they spend their time for fun? What’s causing them difficulty at the moment? What are their dreams? What does their community feel like?

It always comes back too empathy and authenticity.

Let’s say that you are a nonprofit and you know that your theory of change, if implemented, will absolutely change the world for the better. It’s not enough to just explain that at your audience. In some ways, if the change were easy or natural to make, they’d have made the change already. Many times, your audience just doesn’t have the knowledge base you have. Or they’re thinking about the situation from a completely different frame of reference.

It becomes your responsibility to listen and learn about the frames and experiences that audiences are bringing to your topic. You can listen and learn about what vocabulary audiences use, what questions they ask, what fears they have.

The more you modify your message and your offering to accommodate the audience, the more they recognize it.

If your offering isn’t the main character in your audience’s life, how can it support the main character? To use a reference from Avengers, your brand might not be Tony Stark, but your brand can be the Infinity Stones. Your brand can be the thing your audience (as their own main character) uses to accomplish something that they already recognize as meaningful.

Over time, you achieve a shift - from something on the periphery to something that is recognizable to your audience in the context of their lives. You become just the thing or idea they were looking for.

And once they’ve done that, they’ll share your story for you. Because it empowers them to be the main character - the one who shares a novel solution that creates value for them and the people they care about.

We work with subject matter expert brands to help them untangle the blind spots and speak more meaningfully to their audience. Contact us and tell us what you’ve got going on. We’d love to help.

Darren Schwindaman

Darren Schwindaman

Darren Schwindaman is a graphic and web designer who oversees creative & strategic direction for Creative Distillery clients. He studied graphic design at Loyola University New Orleans and lived in Jackson, Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina. Darren now lives in Upstate New York.

Darren values building relationships with his clients and making the real world a better place through communications. He is a rare breed of left-brained artist, and he believes that good design comes from equal parts creativity, strategy, and coffee. Darren enjoys Atlanta Braves baseball and The Expanse, a gritty sci-fi drama.

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Alignment + Action