Storytelling 101: No, your brand isn’t the hero. Your customer is.

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“Storytelling” has been a marketing buzz phrase for so long now that it often loses its meaning. But storytelling done right can be the difference between a brand resonating with an audience or just talking to itself.

We all love stories. There’s a deep-seated human need to escape in a good story, to get lost in a narrative. We use stories to explain our history, to pass on our morals and traditions, to debate issues. They entertain us, move us, challenge us.

Brands have increasingly tried to use the tenets of good storytelling to connect with audiences, but too often they lose the thread–and their audience–by only talking about themselves. Nobody likes a narcissist.

Remember: It’s not all about you. 

Brands need to understand that the hero of the story is the customer, not the brand. Why? Let’s take a closer look at how stories work.

Every story needs a main character or hero. To be compelling, this character needs to have goals, wants, and needs. They’re going on some kind of journey–even if it’s not a literal journey like Frodo Baggins or Kate and Leo on the Titanic, it’s an emotional or spiritual journey.

Then they’re faced with an obstacle–something that prevents them from reaching their goal. An iceberg, or orcs in Mordor, or a rival for a lover, or a house under foreclosure, or a ticking bomb.

The hero now faces a decision point, where they have to take some action. The action that they take to get around that obstacle comes to define them, while setting them off on a new path.

We’ve heard clients say before that their brand needs to be the hero of the story. We gently tell them that, no, sorry, that’s not true. Your customer is the hero.

No matter how great your brand, product, company, or service, people today aren’t interested in celebrating you and applauding you on your journey. It’s not about you, it’s about them.

Your brand is the helpful sidekick. You can be the best supporting character, showing up at the right time with the solution to their problems. Because that’s what your product or service should be: it should solve a legitimate problem that people face. It should help them overcome an obstacle that has been preventing them from reaching their goal.

You can show them what decision they should make, inspiring them with a clear call to action gets them past their roadblock.

At FortyFour, we keep this in mind when we work with companies across various industries. We guide brands in understanding how their offerings help people. We then use that information to tell a clear story, one that communicates to consumers how a brand’s products will help them succeed on their journey.

You’re not the hero, but you can help the hero save the day.

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