I’m so glad you asked! You’re my favorite. Don’t tell the others. It’ll be our little secret.
The short answer is that storytelling is narrative and narrative is driven by conflict. The long answer? Let’s dig into the guts of that.
Traditionally, conflict comes in the form of the big four: Man vs. Man, Man vs. Society, Man vs. Nature, and Man vs. Self. (But since this is 2014, I’m just going to go ahead and use the term Protagonist, or even Protag, because c’mon. There’s also some other X vs. Y ideas, and we’ll delve into those too.) What do each of these categories mean, especially in terms of marketing? We’ll take ’em one by one. Starting, in this post, with…
Protagonist vs. Antagonist, ie: Dude in a White Hat vs. Dude in a Black Hat, Superhero vs. Supervillain, Me vs. The Driver of That Car Going Twelve Miles Under the Speed Limit Come ON Man You’re Killin’ Me Here
This is your basic good guy/bad guy narrative. I don’t say that to demean it — there are some real advantages to this approach. It’s straightforward by virtue of being an external conflict. It has a great built-in iconography. It’s also easy to flip the script a little and do an unthinking good guy vs. morally gray but compelling antihero thing, which has worked out pretty well for DC Comics.
A good marketing example would be the (sadly no longer used) Ronald McDonald vs. Hamburglar narrative, or the more recent “lost footage” Grey Poupon car chase. Sometimes, this isn’t outright enemies trading punches — could be buddies eating hot wings, or spouses that have more in common than they know.
How would you make this work on social media? Loads of ways. Personify the players in your conflict and give them both Twitter accounts, say, with lots of banter back and forth and enlisting followers to choose sides — basically an online version of Tip Jar Voting.
“Oh!” you might ask. “Wouldn’t that be good for the left/right campaign Twix has going on?” Why, yes. Yes it would. Excellent question. Five points to Gryffindor.
You could even produce a whole web series with very little financial investment via Pheed, using pictures and text posts and even short videos detailing the escalating conflict between neighbors over noise, teeming with beautiful product placement in a way that’s organic instead of forced.
There’s also the classic Like/Share vote — but frankly? I’d steer clear of that because, as Carole Smith points out over at SynNeo’s blog, it violates Facebook’s guidelines.
It can also come across as needy. Super needy. Creepy levels of needy.
And we don’t do creepy.
Stick around for the next installment, and we’ll take a gander at another classic conflict. And later, we’ll talk tropes and character types. And even later we’ll combine them all into a rich stew of marketing goodness that is both delicious and nutritious. Sound good? Awesome.