Imagine your favourite fictional character — what is it that captivates you about their journey? What is it that means you are going to root for them to succeed?
Just like fictional characters, brand characters need to captivate an audience and draw them in to their stories. It’s the characters motivations that excite us — it’s their purpose to set out on the quest, or to overcome the monster. Without this purpose, their story just seems a bit hollow?
A good brand strategy will help a brand define their mission, vision and purpose. There’s a reason that these things are essential for a brand character, without them your story would be missing something. And it probably wouldn’t be worth reading.
Vision — This is why you are telling your story. This is your brand’s current goal.
Mission — This is how your character will overcome the obstacles that confront it. This is why your brand is well suited to the task.
Purpose — This is the motivation that drives your character. This is why your brand exists.
I wanted to explore this idea further, to see what it was that drew us to some of the most famous characters ever written. So, I asked around the studio — “who’s your favourite fictional character?” I got back a long list of captivating characters from books and screens.
I whittled the list down and selected a hand full of expertly crafted characters, each of them captivating you with a deep sense of purpose. I researched and explored this idea, in an attempt to summarise a brief ‘vision’, ‘mission’ and ‘purpose’ for each character:
Vision — To help the dwarves reclaim the Kingdom of Erebor.
Mission — To overcome the quest’s obstacles using stealth, wits and trust in companionship.
Purpose — An adventurous nature, combined with a belief that everyone deserves somewhere to call home, somewhere they can belong.
“You don’t have one, a home. It was taken from you. But I will help you take it back if I can”Bilbo Baggins. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
Vision — To uncover truth and fight against the oppression of the Party, Big Brother and the thought police.
Mission — To be fearless in every action to take down the party, through a belief that the future is predetermined.
Once committing a thought-crime, he had no reason not to risk everything. “He was already dead, he reflected”Part 1, Chpt 2.
Purpose — An inquisitive nature and hate for the Party, creates desperation to understand the depths of their power in Oceania. Winston wants to challenge the Party to see if the world can be different.
Vision — To understand his relationship with the force and to defeat the Empire. To bring balance to the force.
Mission — To fulfil a destiny, through mastery over emotions and growth into a Jedi Knight.
Purpose — Initially seeking adventure, Luke eventually finds a duty to something larger than himself, seeking to balance to the force against all odds.
Vision — To defeat Bowser and rescue Princess Peach.
Mission — To remain determined that no obstacle will stop progression towards the vision.
Purpose — A desire to attain intimacy and a relationship, through proving romantic feelings towards Princess Peach.
Vision — To find and return the heart of Te Fitti, to save her family and home.
Mission — To be brave of thought and action, by following what is the right thing to do.
Purpose — Fearless desire to prove herself, explore beyond the reef and follow her conscience. Action is needed now, waiting for the natural world to die is not an option.
A character’s purpose will guide their actions and behaviours throughout the story, just as a brands purpose will guide their actions. But, can we really compare fictional characters with very much real brands? Well, if you read back through some of these character motivations, they sound quite familiar:
Bilbo — Everyone deserves somewhere to call home, somewhere they can belong.
AirBnB — ‘Creating a world where anyone can belong anywhere’.
The Everymen — Both of these characters are motivated by a sense of belonging, that they pursue by connecting with others.
Winston — To challenge the Party to see if the world can be different.
Apple — ‘To challenge the status quo. To think differently’.
The Rebels — Both of these characters believe that there is something better to come from challenging ‘the way things are’.
Luke — A duty to something larger than himself, by bringing balance to the force against all odds.
Nike — ‘Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world. We believe if you have a body, you are an athlete’.
The Heroes — Both of these characters are the hero of their stories, who seek to better the world for others.
Mario — A desire to attain intimacy and a relationship.
Chanel — ‘Define style and create desire now and forever’.
The Lovers — Both these characters are motivated to create deeper connection and intimacy.
Moana — Action is needed now, waiting for the natural world to die is not an option.
Patagonia — ‘We’re in business to save our home planet’.
The Explorers — Both of these characters care deeply for the natural world and are in their element exploring its wonders.
If you were to read back or re-watch any of the above stories, and found the motivations of the characters removed, you would be left with 5 very flat characters and 5 very dull stories. By writing stories around characters who have clear purpose to their actions, you are engaging the audience on an emotional level. You are enabling the audience to have a reason to back that character. You are giving them a reason to believe in them.
We are all humans, at the end of the day, and we make our decisions based on emotions. Brands that tell their story, are brands that understand how to talk to humans.
At Ghost we understand the importance of purpose in a brands story. We believe in belief. Because real change comes from a brand people can believe in. We know that brands have the potential to make a positive difference. It’s our mission to help those brands whose cause will create real change for people and place. Finding your brand’s belief will give a clarity that allows you to build an authentic culture, motivate employees and inspire true brand advocates.
Character Development 101: Writing Characters Readers Won’t Forget // Reedsyblog // Dec 2019.
Brand Archetypes: The Ultimate Guide with 48 Examples // Arek Dvornechuck // Apr 2020.