Embrace Your Conflict

Just about everyone has whipped (and then they nae-nae'd) themselves into some apoplectic frenzy over the new Star Wars trailer. Some have seen it 15 or more times and they eagerly await the unmistakable John Williams chord that will begin the seventh film. We've waited nearly 40 years for this! Apparently, it's a story thread that's created a little more excitement than the mid-1960's release of the above Major Matt Mason doll. (What?! You don't remember Major Matt Mason?! That's ok, you're not alone.)

Why do we love Star Wars? It's a great story with great characters dealing with real conflict and triumphing over it. We believe it. We identify with the flawed persons of Luke or Han Solo and admire their perseverance as we watch them become better people. The story holds together and rings true. We like it. We want to feel a part of it in some way.  

Major Matt Mason vanished because nothing really happened to him. He just lived peacefully on the moon. It wasn't until somebody essentially turned him into Major Matt Damon and stranded him on Mars that things became interesting.

Conflict IS Story
Author/singer/songwriter Andrew Peterson recently told me, "'A cat was lying down on a rug' is not a good story. However, if we say, 'the cat was lying down on the dog's rug', that changes everything." Conflict changes everything. It's necessary. And I think Andrew's onto something; something that advertisers should pay attention to.

Your company deals with (and solves) conflict everyday. Otherwise what you do wouldn't exist. For example, tire companies exist because wooden wagon wheels were horribly inefficient.  Drive-thru's exist because some California dude in 1948 thought it would be really gnarly if you could just get your burger super quickly- you'd just drive in, get it, and drive out. Thus, the In-N-Out Burger was born ( I'd like mine animal style, please!).

Because your company solves problems, you also change people's lives. The best way solution-based conversations with your customers work is when they are already having it with themselves. You meet them where they are. Think:  When you're hungry... THEN nothing beats the great taste of food. When it's raining outside THEN nothing beat this swell yellow slicker. It doesn't work the other way around:  "Hey here's my food. Buy my food. I'm selling my food. Here's My-my-my-my"  No, thanks. That kind of conversation neglects you. It does't embrace your conflict and you'll forget that storyline when you are hungry.  

Great story identifies that conflicts exist, portrays them accurately and genuinely, THEN provides a relevant solution. (Hey, that new Death Star is as nasty as Darth Vader's breath! Better use the force, Luke! OK, thanks, Obi-wan!) 

Great Story (Advertising) Embraces Conflict
We recently worked with Marsh and McLennan Agency (MMA). They were looking for a video to help them recruit more people for their sales producer team without being, well, salesy.


We encouraged them to take a bit of a different approach... instead of just giving a bunch of facts on data on, "earnings potential", and "benefits", and "blah blah blah!", let your currents reps explain why they love what they do and who they do it for.

...and IT WORKED.

Within a week, MMA had more than a thousand contacts and over a dozen completed applications. 

So, let's rewind back to the beginning. Think about all the things you do and the problems you can solve. Pick one of them and talk about your solution with your target audience from their perspective with your video! 

  1. Where's the conflict?  (What problem do you solve?)  
  2. Where's your customers conflict? (What are their needs, wants and fears?)
  3. Where do they all intersect? (Where's the common place you can enter the dialogue)

Meanwhile, I marveled at Jake LeVoir's post earlier this week. How is it that he can eat an entire airport-sized Cinnabon so effortlessly and yet remain so remarkably skinny? I'd surely go from "delicate to whopping in a fortnight!" Kinda like that blueberry girl from Willy Wonka.

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About the Author
Mark Seignious, M.A., realizes his last name is a bit of an eye-chart. But, it rhymes with genius. Of course, after reading this post or others, you'll immediately know...it just rhymes. Mark enjoys writing for Slate and Main plus shaping young minds as an Associate Professor at the University of Northwestern- St Paul.