Although many organizations are trying to become storytellers, they often shy away from villains. But what would Harry Potter be like without Voldemort or Winston Churchill without Hitler?
They also unite employees, prospects, voters and members of other important groups behind a common enemy.
Companies that are building a brand as a nice guy may be reluctant to feature down-and-dirty villains. Here in Canada, we pride ourselves on being pleasant and polite. Most of us loathe the vilification of negative political advertising we see with our American friends. Even though we know it works.
Fortunately, there’s more than one way to paint a villain.
Ways to paint your villain
The villain can be a character you invent to represent the forces of evil, for example the tax man, the liberal elites or the people who the feed gravy train, a ploy that still works well for Toronto’s cracker jack mayor Rob Ford.
The villain can be big tobacco, big pharma, big government or big foes that little folk love to hate.
The villain can be disease, pestilence, the devil, natural disasters, economic crashes and other evil forces beyond the hero’s control.
The villain can be personal, such as how age is turning my hair gray and making my knees creak.
The less you personify your villains the less impact they will have. Consider the difference between Bob the Bully, the mean lug with the hammer fists, versus the forces of bullying. Bob is more dramatic and effective, but bullying can do the job for nice Canadians—or anyone who does not wish to star the forces of evil.
The point is to create a villain who will drive the conflict, contrast with your hero’s sterling character and encourage individuals to feel like they belong to a group.
In my earlier post on creating your hero, I advised content marketers who ultimately want to sell anything to avoid playing the hero.
Instead, be the mentor who enables the hero, someone with the same dreams or problems as your ideal client, to overcome challenges and resolve the conflict. That means providing the hero with the tools to vanquish the villain.
If you have an authentic villain–say a competitor or a person making trouble for your hero – that’s best.
If not, create one.
Remember: no conflict, no villain, no story.