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Chad Alexander
By Chad Alexander on June 06, 2023

Why the StoryBrand BrandScript Fails to Take in the Big Picture

Is your business adopting some of these Story Brand flaws?

If you’re familiar with Donald Miller and his book, Building a Story Brand, you obviously are familiar with the Storybrand Brandscript, a distillation of the key points made throughout the book in one nice, handy .pdf file.

This is a broad overview of the main character, the struggles they face, and the mentor figure that takes them under their wing (think Gandalf or Morpheus or even us if you want a growth agency on your side) that will symbolically guide your buyers through their own magical and wonderful buyer journey.

Here’s the problem: Real people and their real-life journeys are complicated and messy. We know because we do buyer journeys for businesses a LOT. And we discover things late in the process that neither us nor the client saw coming, because humans are unpredictable at times.

And to think that you can distill their decision processes down to anything simplistic is, well...

…to borrow a quote from Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park: “That is one big pile of s#!+

And just like his chaos theory, we're about to introduce some chaos into the Story Brand framework.

Yes, we are casting shade on the story brand. We are Story Collaborative, after all, so the kettle is calling the pot…you know. Regardless, we have been in the brand story business well before the book was published in 2017, and we do know that this cliche has been either:

  • used so much in advertising that users have become immune to it
  • or, even worse, not employed at all.

In Defense of Story Brand

Before we start to get cease and desist letters from Donald Miller, or even worse, Google review bombings because you didn’t like where this topic is headed, let us be clear: we like StoryBrand.

For many businesses, and certainly ours when we read the book in 2018, it helped to critically evaluate the structure of our businesses and the way buyers interacted with it. The concept of storytelling, which has been present ever since Jesus spun parables for listeners and even before, is ingrained in us. The approach itself is very solid.

But there was something offputting to us that the main theme of the book was that every story had the same framework. While that is true, we knew that for businesses to succeed in the marketplace, they had to be different. We had seen firsthand what a business does when they try to tell a story through the lens of competition.

Hint: It doesn't flatter the business when it's compared to other competitors. Even if they are the best, they're still stymied by that competition because one day that competition will gain ground. Apple didn't win against Windows in the 1980s by pitting it as another personal computer, but because they sought to "Think Different".

Story Brand in the Grocery Store

And think about this from the perspective of grocery shopping. If you're browsing in the supermarket and you see 50 brands of spaghetti sauce, you probably are thinking one of three things:

  1. I'll pick the brand I know
  2. I can't decide
  3. I'll order spaghetti out tonight

Unless your business has that brand awareness engrained in buyers, they cannot decide which one to choose. Or, even worse, they'll decide based on price which will never benefit anyone.

This is where we knew that being different, being niche-focused, was actually benefitting your customers, and it wasn't simply wrapped in this one-size-fits-all framework.

Your business isn't the same as the competitors, so why should you use the same techniques as theirs?

This brings us to why the Story Brand may have some flaws that your business is adopting:

The StoryBrand Brandscript Is Just That…A Script

We have experienced for ourselves and in talking with other marketers that StoryBrand and the associated framework just doesn’t work for every company. By diluting the process down to simplistic base terms that make everyone have the same experience, it makes positioning extremely difficult for brands.

Even the best script needs to be interpreted by talented actors if it will produce anything worth watching, and that’s when you start with a real script. I'm sure you've seen movies where the actors are great in it, but it's a big thud to watch because the scriptwriting is so poor.

And, unfortunately, this script is really just an outline, and can only produce derivatives at best.

A formulaic script really isn’t a substitute for well-crafted messaging and talented delivery. Businesses can’t run with this skeleton outline, they need to build out a real brand story.

>Learn how you can tell your story so that you stand out in the market

Not to mention, as AI and machine learning start to write blogs like these, the competition for good quality content and the need for real interaction that isn’t scripted is going to skyrocket.

So that means all those businesses that may not be using StoryBrand will now start ranking more highly on Google based on content, simply by virtue of its uniqueness and value to the web visitor. They’ll take your articles and write something even better with AI. This is a new era for Google since people aren’t looking for search results…they’re looking for answers. And if your answer is found in a script that hasn’t been updated or sounds too much like a script, your buyer is going elsewhere.

Who wants to be pitched by anything that sounds remotely like a sales script? It makes buyers run for the hills.

Failure Is, Actually, An Option

For some businesses, the salesperson is in the position of do or die, with no recourse for taking only second place. While failure is imperative to the buying process, it leads the witness, if you will, into thinking that if they don’t get your product or service, they are doomed.

In the words of Bruce “Captain” Kirk, it doesn’t allow the buyer to say no.

Sometimes the buyer isn’t ready, or better yet, isn’t an ideal customer. We tell our clients all the time to niche their services, but they are afraid that if they do, they’ll miss out on various customers. 

But would you rather have ten loyal customers who are your brand champions even though they don’t pay as much…

Or a customer who is an okay fit, but is loaded…and yet the experience is fraught with nightmarish, soul-sucking stupidity, obnoxiousness, and “not getting it”?

If you would rather have the whale, then you probably should stop reading this article.

Failure is also framed after the fact, which means that the buyers may wait for the outcome. They may see the forecast is calling for snow, but they will delay getting their groceries and snowblower/generator started up until the last possible minute. Then, they are in a world of hurt.

We would like to think that we are cold, calculating, and logical creatures, but more often than not, we are driven by emotional buying. Failure isn’t necessarily a catastrophic event that takes us by surprise, but the gradual poor choices and habits that lead up to the failure.

As such, the process needs to be gradual for real failure to work…wearing them down emotionally. Don’t you hate being cold in the winter? Don’t you want to get out of your driveway in case of an emergency? Would you like to have hot water in the event of a power outage?

Transformation Schmanzformation

Apple was the hero of their story by not just telling people they were a better or different computer company, but that the buyers were secret geniuses that “Think Different”. So instead of just being someone who buys a computer, they bought an experience.

That works nicely in the world of the 1980s, but now we have more processing power at our fingertips and in the cloud. How were those heroes transformed?

Well…they become heroes of their own stories. And that’s where it ends. All of that work for just a loyal customer. Sure, they may be the crowds that line up for days in front of an Apple store awaiting the latest iPhone…

…but are they saving other people as the hero? Are they really bringing friends and family with them to this event or are they just covetously gobbling up your resources?

We see in heroic movies like The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers or The Matrix: Reloaded that it isn’t just simply only Frodo and Neo’s stories, respectively. They inspire other legends to rise up during the conflict or after they’re gone.

The heroes of your Brand Story must become brand ambassadors. The StoryBrand doesn’t really create this sort of consumer who goes and tells the whole world about your product. It’s hero-centric instead of community-centric.

Would you rather have a Luke Skywalker for a buyer that must constantly be taught and challenged until he eventually resolves his daddy issues? Or, would you prefer a Frodo Baggins who is inspiring an entire fellowship to help him in his monumental task?

What Your Business Really Needs

You have a unique business with exciting problems to overcome and buyers who are lost in translation. They aren’t seeing the right messaging that isn’t compelling them to the next step in their journey to getting to know you.

Talk with us about your brand story and how to bring forward what makes you special

Published by Chad Alexander June 6, 2023
Chad Alexander