Do what you love.

Follow your passion.

Lead with your heart.

I have more Pollyanna DNA than most, but this tired advice has always felt a little empty to me, a little one-dimensional. After all, life isn’t just rainbows and unicorns. Life has a dark side. The trick is learning to access that dark side for good instead of evil.

 

No one is a hero without a villain.  Click to tweet. 

Your brand is what you stand for. It embodies the things you want to be known for – speed, agility, creativity, beauty, progress, simplicity, the lowest price in town, etc. What so many people forget, however, is that the best brands also stand against something.

What is the opposing force that your brand is poised to fight? What war cry would your brand scream charging into battle? What sends you into apoplectic fits of rage and indignation? What injustice are you determined to undo? What piece of insanity do you want to wipe from the face of this Earth?

Everyone – even the sweetest, most mild-mannered of us – fights an enemy. What enemy are you fighting?

 

The villain isn’t a “who,” it’s a “what.”

Be careful not to confuse your enemy with the competition. They are not the same.

Your competitors are actually your allies, battling beside you against a common enemy. You compete against each other for the loyalty of your shared audience, but at the end of the day you’re fighting the same fight.

Your enemy is much bigger than your competitors. Your enemy isn’t a “who,” it’s an idea or a situation or a philosophy. It’s a way of life, the status quo, a lack of something, or too much of something else. It’s the thing that makes you want to write a proverbial letter to the editor each time you encounter it. It inspires you to get up on your soapbox and preach your personal gospel to the world.

 

The villain helps define the hero.

Without an opposing force, a hero is just a person who is going through the motions.

Without an opposing force, there is no fire in the hero’s soul. There is no sense of greater purpose, no fierce commitment, no do-or-die mission.

Without an opposing force, we never get to see what the hero can really do.

Like it or not, your enemy is a big part of who you are and why you are.

  • Who is Luke without Darth Vader?
  • Who is Frodo without the Dark Lord?
  • Who is Buffy without vampires?
  • Who is Erin Brokovitch without corporate corruption?
  • Who is Katniss Everdeen without the Captial?
  • Who is Liz Lemon without Jack Donaghy?

You get the idea.

What idea or status quo is your brand pitted against?

 

The battle brings critical conflict to your story.

You know that marketing with story is a powerful technique, but do you know what makes a story a story?

Conflict.

No conflict, no story.

If you haven’t identified and called out your enemy, your story lacks conflict. It will fall flat, failing to pique the interest of your audience, never mind inspire them to loyalty or incite them to action.

When you get clear about the nature of your enemy, you get clear about the war you’re fighting. You know what your battle cry should be. You can make a strong stand not only for something, but against something else.

This is important.

 

Do what you love, but know why you love it.  Click to tweet. 

Love does not exist in a vacuum.

  • I love being out in the quiet of the woods because it provides me with an enlightening escape from the overwhelming, multi-tasking world of my computer.
  • I love beautiful art because it strikes a blow against the boring and overly utilitarian.
  • I love simple, well-designed apps because they help me wrangle and manage the chaos of my life.
  • I love second-hand clothes because they help me express my individuality amidst the sea of mass-manufactured clone-clothes that hit the chain stores each season.

 

  • Quiet vs. Noise
  • Beauty vs. Blah
  • Simplicity vs. Complexity
  • Individuality vs. Mass Market

Like love, your brand exists in the context of what you’re passionate about and what makes you passionately crazy. They say necessity is the mother of invention, but being ticked off about something is often what drives someone to build a better mousetrap.

 

When you are working on your branding, don’t forget to look the dark side in the eye. Know your enemy. Name it. Call it out. Rally your troops and wage your battle. Get mad and then get even. Accept both the loving and angry sides of your passion – when you have both working for you, you will be unstoppable.

 

Can you name your enemy? What is your battle cry? How does the dark side of your passion – your anger – help define your brand in a positive way?

Image Credit: matthijs