Don’t Be A Hero (The Story Isn’t About You)

Written By Matt Vincent

On April 26, 2019

In our first post in the Narrative Marketing series, we looked at this road map from Building a Story Brand (see right).

This post will focus on the first two sections: 1) A Character (2) Has a Problem. The character in this narrative is the hero of the story, and this is where the majority of marketing agencies fail their clients. They place the business in the role of the hero by making the story all about them: who they are, how they were founded, what they believe in, and why they are awesome.

When companies make themselves the hero instead of their customer, they create direct competition for the lead role in someone else’s story. Remember, none of us feel as motivated when we’re sidelined to supporting roles instead of starring. Let’s break down how you, as a brand, can take control over who your hero really is and how you can be the solution to their problem.


Your customer is looking at your business and your product/service as something to propel their story forward to a happy ending, NOT become another obstacle or competition. We’ll unpack this more in the next post in the series, but the key takeaway is that your role is not the hero, so take a backseat to your customer in the story.

Every hero has an ambition, and your customer is no different. The key is finding out what it is, and how to succinctly describe it. Often, in an effort to expand their reach, a business will list out a myriad of products or services to potential customers that serve a variety of needs. While diversity isn’t a bad thing, odds are that there is an underlying need you fulfill. You need to make that need the primary focus of your marketing so customers can quickly and easily recognize your business and your product/service as the one that can best meet that need.


Like we discussed in the previous post, most of your customers’ desires will be relevant to their drive to survive and thrive. Some common desires are:

  • Conserving Finances

  • Saving Time

  • Building Community/Social Networks

  • Gaining Status

  • Accumulate Resources

  • Being Generous

  • Discovering Meaning/Purpose in Life

Imagine going into your local grocery store and discovering they’ve just renovated and moved stuff around. You approach the first available employee and ask where to find eggs. The employee then begins to tell you about the founding of the grocery store, the owner’s vision for the store’s impact, and their other store locations. You just want them to tell you where the eggs are! The goal for your business is that every potential customer knows exactly what you offer, from the first moment they engage with you.


Every customer/hero has a problem. In a story, the problem manifests itself as a villain and the obstacles the villain places in the hero’s way. The villain needs to be the source of your customer’s frustration. The villain doesn’t have to be a person, but it does need personification. Let’s use eggs again as an example. If you sell organic eggs, the villain would be inorganic, genetically modified mutant eggs! Conversely, if you are selling inorganic eggs, the villain would be the higher cost of feeding your family the “so-called” natural eggs!

Next, we have the obstacles, or problems, the villain places in your customer’s path. Most businesses know the general problem but fail to recognize that it has three layers: external, internal, and philosophical. A business typically addresses the external problem facing the customer but fails to address the internal or philosophical ones. The issue here is that most customers make their decisions at the internal or philosophical level. Odds are, someone else is selling a product or service that is similar to yours. Why is someone choosing you over your competitors? It all depends on whether or not you can identify the internal or philosophical issue.

At &Marketing, the villain our clients often face is noise. They struggle to be heard, seen, and understood by potential customers in the sea of advertising. The external problem is that their potential customers are inundated with a myriad of ads and offers from competitors, some of whom are offering an inferior product or service. The internal problem our clients face is the question, “Do I have what it takes to succeed, or am I destined to fail? Is my product/service good enough to compete with the big dogs, or am I just delusional?” Finally, the philosophical problem our clients face is that the best product or service should be the one to succeed, NOT the loudest one or the one with the largest marketing budget.

When we speak primarily to the internal problem our potential clients face, we engage with them on the issue that keeps them up at night; the issue that makes them feel known and understood. When your customers hear you speaking to their internal and philosophical problems, they will want to do business with you.

In our third post in the Narrative Marketing series, we will look at the next two sections:

  • Your place in the story (the guide), and how to share your product/service as a solution to the hero’s obstacles.

About the Author

Matt Vincent is the Creative Director at &Marketing.  He has worked in digital illustration and graphic design for over 6 years. During this time, he has worked for a variety of clients, including IGN Entertainment and Salesforce, and a host of smaller & medium sized companies. As a self-taught graphic designer and illustrator, he is constantly learning and growing his repertoire of creative skills, and sharing those with the world. His primary passion is equipping creatives to be storytellers; to see the narrative threads and archetypes that exist in all things, and to tap into them to get their audience to think, grow, and act.

About &Marketing

In today’s fast paced world, many growing businesses are struggling to modernize their marketing approaches because either they don’t have the expertise or the bandwidth to do it themselves.

&Marketing provides seasoned marketing strategy professionals and a nimble execution team to help our clients achieve their goals. Our unique partnership model allows us to augment our client’s existing teams or outsource the entire marketing function in an affordable, flexible, and transparent way.