How to Develop Your Brand's Superhero Story

How to Develop Your Brand’s Superhero Story


The world loves a superhero story. If you don’t agree, just ask Disney why they spent over $4.24 billion acquiring the rights to tell Marvel’s stories. You may not know it, but your brand has a superhero story of it’s own too, and this post will help you uncover it.

Which Kind of Hero Are You?

Start by asking yourself what kind of superhero story you should have. Is your brand a plucky underdog fighting against superior odds? Amazon was exactly that, once upon a time. When Amazon was new I remember my CEO at the time arguing with me that people might spend a little bit to enjoy the novelty of buying a book online, but bookstores were part of an industry with outlets in every city and town. The idea that bookstores would be replaced by an online shop was absurd to him and many other people.

So first, you have to identify what kind of hero your brand is. Bold knight? Hyper intelligent genius? Super-powered meta-human? Kid next door? Sultry spy? Mystical guru?

What is Your Special Power?

One of the things that sets the superhero apart from everyone else is that they know what makes them special. A typical part of the superhero origin story in comics is that they go through an early period of uncertainty. When Spider-Man first acquired his powers, he did not know how to handle them and this made him vulnerable. In a similar way, if you do not know what the special power of your business is, you will remain ordinary. Businesses that try to be everything at the same time, are the ones that fail fastest. What is your superpower? #SuperheroBrandStory #branding Click To Tweet

One of the first questions I ask a new client is “What is your USP?” because until you are clear what you do better than anyone else, how can you expect to articulate it through your marketing? Once you know what you do best, you can leap into action whenever a client needs you.

What is Your Origin Story?

Superman was sent to Earth by his parents as a refugee from a dying planet. Black Widow was subjected to dark experiments and secret ruthless training to become a super-spy. Where do the beginnings of your brand story lie? Maybe you harboured a secret desire to save the planet from climate disaster for years before you developed your range of eco-friendly products. Or did you grow up in poverty and learned money-saving techniques that you now teach to your local community?   Where do the beginnings of your brand story lie?. #BrandStory Click To Tweet

Take a fresh look at why you started your business, or why you joined it. What is there that inspires you today and tomorrow? Maybe you too have an origin story that is as epic as that of a refugee child sent into the darkness, who found his destiny. Your brand story needs to inspire.

Who is Your Arch Enemy?

One thing we all know is that superheroes always have an arch-nemesis. For Superman, it was Lex Luthor. When you stand for something, it also means you stand against something. So what is your arch enemy? The one thing you fight against above all else? Is it climate change? Is that why you developed that range of green products? Is it poverty? Perhaps that’s why you developed that money-saving app that you are now promoting. When you know what you stand for, you know what you stand against. Too many businesses lack a clear understanding of their USP. #BrandStory #branding Click To Tweet

Many businesses, particularly those who have been around for a few years, struggle to identify their primary purpose. When you ask them what their USP is they often flounder and list two or three of their key features. It’s surprisingly easy to forget what your real passion is over time, particularly if the original founder of the business has retired or passed on. Once a company grows sufficiently large to start employing sales teams to bring in new business, it becomes harder to hold on to the original sense of purpose. If you’re not careful, that purpose becomes to shift more units rather than fix a problem with the world.

Maybe it’s time to start thinking about who or what your arch enemy is. What is the exact opposite of what you are trying to achieve? That’s where you’ll find their lair.

What is Your Kryptonite?

No matter how strong, powerful, or fast you are, one thing is certain: every superhero has their own unique weakness. The one thing that can destroy them. Even Achilles, the hero of Homer’s epic tale The Iliad, had a fatal flaw. He was impervious to any wounds on his body, except for a small area near his ankle. The Achilles Heel is now a popular cliche, but without it, Achilles would have been immortal. So, what is your Achilles Heel? Your own unique kryptonite?

Many once-successful businesses have now fallen into obscurity because they failed to understand what they were doing wrong. Netflix approached Blockbuster and offered them the chance to buy the company, they were laughed out of the boardroom. Now, of course, it’s easy to see how movies streamed over the internet utterly destroyed Blockbuster’s entire business model. Blockbuster simply could not see that they had an Achilles Heel.   Many once-successful businesses have now fallen into obscurity because they failed to understand what they were doing wrong. #BrandStory #branding Click To Tweet

Just a few years earlier, IBM were the world’s largest computer company. They had absolutely no idea that a tiny upstart called Microsoft would shatter their hold on the industry. Bill Gates understood that IBM’s kryptonite was the operating system that computers use.

So if you want your business to thrive, not just now, but in the years to come you must look with clear eyes at what you do, why you do it, and how you do it. Look at your operations and processes from the perspective of your competitors. Yes, analyse your strengths, but learn what your weaknesses are. That way, you may spot opportunities for growth and improvement before your competitors do.

The Next Step

Brand marketers love to tell you to be a better storyteller, but they rarely explain what that means in practice. How can you develop your brand story without it becoming a self-glorifying pat on the back? We see this all the time, don’t we? Brands congratulating themselves on being them. Occasionally though we come across a brand story that moves us, that we empathise with. Brands that started because they saw something in peoples’ lives that needed to be fixed.

Origin stories can reveal aims and values that we share. When we learn that they stand for the same things that we value, we cannot help but warm to them; suddenly they don’t seem like products, but a movement that we own too. When you know what your superhero story is, it becomes much easier to share what you do; and for others to share that too. After all, in the end it’s not budgets that define whether a brand is loved or not, it is people.

The Next Step

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