How to tell a compelling brand story in a world full of heroes

An online world, where everyone’s a hero, gives Steve an interesting new perspective on how skilled copywriting can help brands in a crowded market stand out...

Telling a B2B brand story

As I took stock of everything I’ve learned throughout 2017, I had an interesting realisation. One of the most valuable copywriting lessons I learned this year didn’t happen in the Radix office.

It didn’t even happen in this world.

I’ve been a passionate player of MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games) since my early teens. My hobby has taken me to dozens of fantasy worlds, but my experience this year really stood out – and helped me develop as a B2B copywriter.

Everyone’s a hero. So now what?

The nature of MMORPGs makes traditional video game storytelling very difficult. In a world where millions of players are running around together and constantly interacting, it’s hard to make each and every one of them feel like they are the one true saviour of the digital world – destined for glory and power above all others.

Yet, in spite of the obvious challenges, the game I played this year – Final Fantasy 14 if you’re interested – does it almost flawlessly. In the game’s world of Eorzea, every single player character is the “warrior of light”, a chosen individual destined to save the world from multiple catastrophic threats.

That got me thinking about the B2B copy I write. I’ve often found myself working on a project for a client that wants to stand out from their competition and sees themselves as a lone hero, but – at first glance – doesn’t really have any massively compelling USPs.

A crowded and competitive market is much like a world full of heroes. Every company wants to stand out and feel unique, but only a handful have an offering that’s obviously differentiated and able to deliver value above that of the alternatives.

It’s a difficult situation that many copywriters dread. But thanks to my online experiences, it’s a challenge that I’ve learned to embrace and overcome. Instead of clutching at straws and trying to scrape some kind of pseudo-unique proposition together, I’ve learned to embrace it – and devised a few tips to help you craft your own compelling stories for businesses in hero-filled markets.

Finding your individuality

The game makes every player feel like a uniquely significant hero by using:

  • Almost endless character customisation options
  • A strong supporting cast of non-player characters
  • A unique character development system where you can be whatever you want to be

Those tactics are great for game developers looking to achieve the same. But how exactly do they translate into tips and strategies for a brand that wants to be a hero, when its competitors are all offering the same?

The honest answer is “not directly”. But, by thinking about the principles behind those game design decisions, I’ve helpfully engineered them into three simple tips for brands that need to find the extraordinary hidden in the everyday.

Differentiate the brand through tone

So, your brand can’t do anything more than your closest competitor can. It’s a grim reality that few company stakeholders – especially those in marketing – will ever hold their hands up to. But if you can, you’ll be at an advantage.

Because products and capabilities aren’t the only way to differentiate a brand.

Voice and tone are important weapons in any brand’s arsenal. They provide a simple way of showing your reader your attitude, your ethos, and why working with you is a different experience – even if on paper the features and benefits look much the same.

Even if you can’t offer a massive amount of unique value, you can make dealing with you a unique experience – and as a copywriter, we can help you demonstrate that by talking to the customer in a unique way.

Be more open, honest and friendly than your competition. The person reading your content is going to remember that, and often simply being honest and approachable is enough to secure customer interest in an offering.

Tell your customers’ success stories

Telling real success stories is a great way to make your company look heroic – even if, realistically, many of your competitors could have solved the same problems and achieved similar outcomes.

That’s because your reader might not be looking for unique value. Often, they just need to know that you solved a real, relatable problem for a customer in their position, and that the outcomes achieved were positive and appreciated.

(By the way, if you haven’t already read Kieran’s blog post on everything you need to know about B2B case studies, you really should.)

It’s really helpful if your writer can talk directly to a satisfied customer. Often, by explaining why they chose to work with the company and what they gained from it, customers can help uncover USPs and differentiators that senior stakeholders hadn’t even considered.

Because ultimately, in your customer’s world, you’re not the hero anyway. They are.

Say the things other companies are scared to say

If you’re in a well-worn sector, where best practice is well-established and there’s little genuinely new or exciting to say, don’t fake it.

Instead, try cutting the crap.

Is there an elephant in the room that people are scared to address? Is there common jargon or shallow promises that get thrown around a lot in the marketplace? Or – if you’re feeling particularly brave – is there a glaring weakness that is common across all available solutions in your market?

Discussing the points that others are afraid to – and being open and honest about them – is a great way to make a brand stand out, and show your attitude in practice.

Whether it’s breaking the silence on an underdiscussed flaw, or just openly acknowledging that most solutions in the market are very similar and will deliver similar results, openness can pay dividends.

Don’t bullshit. Ever.

Whether they want to rise to the top of their market, make a difference to their customers or simply continue growing, every company we engage with as B2B copywriters wants to be a hero. If they have a compelling story to tell already, then that’s great – but often, they’ll look to us to provide that spark.

A clear, differentiated narrative is a luxury not everyone can afford. Especially in B2B tech, too many brands overstretch trying to look unique, and end up undermining their credibility by pretending something’s different when it’s not.

Instead, it’s up to us to find ways of making the ordinary extraordinary, and helping individuals stand out from a crowd of others with the same capabilities, on the basis of their attitude. Their ethos. Their people.

As copywriters, we’re in a unique position to make that happen. We can influence things like tone, voice and honesty in communication to help a single voice rise above the static. We don’t need to try and sex-up product offerings or call on unsubstantiated facts to fabricate a narrative that simply isn’t there.

(Even if, sometimes, we need to push back on a brief, and have those awkward conversations for the brand’s own good. Because somebody has to.)

If the offer looks the same on paper, we need to be honest about that. Because the conversation that happens next is when we can really make our chosen champion feel like the only hero in their world.


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