In a recent article in Advertising Age entitled ‘Hey Brands – Every Great Story Needs an Enemy’, veteran US ad-man Pete Favat suggests that brands need to, “stop playing it safe and find an enemy.”

He goes on to say that, “Ever since humans started telling stories, those stories – the ones worth hearing and sharing – were built on tension. They are driven by a protagonist and an antagonist. Something to root for and something to root against. Without that enemy you’ve got nada… tension makes people pay attention.”

Favat was talking about advertising in general, and references many print advertising campaigns, but can the same be said for the telling of a brand story through online copywriting?

What makes a good enemy?

Though Favat does mention an iconic picture of a young Steve Jobs giving the finger to IBM, the enemy in question doesn’t usually have to be a specific organisation or individual. Instead it may take the form of a concept or a common problem faced by consumers.

If you think of the many television adverts for household cleaning products, how many of them characterise dirt and germs as an enemy that needs to be defeated, using those products as a ‘weapon’? How about the Benylin advert which personifies a mucusy cough as a grotesque troll to ‘get off your chest’? Or Shreddies’ ‘Keep hunger locked up till lunch’ series of adverts? All of these successful advertising campaigns create an enemy and then offer their product as the best possible way of combating that enemy.

The enemy is the thing that your brand will help customers to overcome.

Finding your brand’s enemy


What’s that you say? You’re a peaceful company and don’t have any enemies? Look a little deeper and you’ll find your enemy in the things that you’re trying to protect your customer from and the solutions you provide. Here are some examples:

  • The low-cost travel booking firm fighting the enemy of overpriced holidays
  • The health and beauty e-commerce site selling solutions to combat the effects of aging and ill health
  • The insurance broker protecting its customers from potential risks and expensive polices
  • The funky fashion retailer battling against boring clothing styles

You get the idea. Once you’ve found your enemy, you can start leveraging it in your online content production. Just as a general would rally his troops against an enemy before battle, you need to tell your web copywriters who the enemy is so that they can set about slaying it in your marketing content. You might choose to personify the enemy as in the television adverts mentioned, or you might simply refer to it in your web content frequently. For example, if you’re selling affordable and reliable used cars, you might make frequent reference to ‘rip-off’ used car deals that motorists can avoid by going through you.

Enemy’s and villains make stories more interesting, and interesting stories are stories that sell. Like Pete Favat says, “Imagine ‘Jaws’ without the shark. Or ‘Star Wars’ without Darth Vader. Crappy, right? So why is marketing any different? We need to provide people with two sides of the story. In some ways, our brains need this polarity.” So find your enemy and set about defeating it in your online marketing.

Whether you know what your brand’s enemy is or you need help finding one, get in touch with Big Star Copywriting and our web copywriters will get to work telling the stories that will sell your brand.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *