015-ConflictThe Essential Element in Great Brand Storytelling is Conflict
By, Carl Hartman. President, Brandgineering.org

The most boring days are those without conflict. How could that be? After all, isn’t the ideal sitting on the beach, with a cool drink in your hand with not a worry in the world?

My dad was a crazy driver and I think he drove like a madman just to get my mother on edge. I think it was actually fun for him. We lived in Southern California and every few weeks my mom would insist on going to the beach. That would mean a trek over the winding roads from the San Fernando Vally to Malibu or Zuma beach.

My parents grew up on the East Coast and a trip to the Jersey shore took many hours for them. My dad could make the trip from our house in the Valley to Malibu in 30 minutes or less in our red Cadillac convertible. He would whiz through the switchbacks of Malibu or Topanga Canyon, zipping around corners in our land yacht. All the while, my mom would be gasping for air and/or yelling out his name.

Remember, this was the 1960’s and 70’s, she had one of those wild floppy hats and big black sun glasses. My dad, would be wearing plaid swim trunks, black support hose, loafers and a totally mismatched shirt of some kind, with a pocket protector and these rickety green sunglasses he had ever since I can remember, with only one metal bar to attach to his ear, the other one had long been broken off, but as a child of the depression, nothing was totally trash until it absolutely crumbled.

So, here we were. I would be strapped in the back seat, hair just swimming in the wind, my mom screaming and gasping and my dad with this innocent look like “What did I do?”

No Conflict, No Story

Conflict. Like it or not, it is one of those thing that is essential to a story and adds spice. In fact, the essence of all great stories is great conflict. How could that be in marketing? Well, if you write a funny story, the essence of comedy is irony; which, is conflict. Should you compare your method to another, that is conflict. Black and white is CONFLICT! Presenting a problem and a solution is conflict! All great stories have conflict.

But, you say “Marketing copy is not a dramatic story!” And, I say bull sh—-! The best marketing copy has drama and has the same structure as a screenplay. The best marketing has drama! Drama requires conflict!

Brain Chemistry

Stop! My parents are still zipping through the canyon. This is supposed to be fun. I see a smile on my dad’s face. I thought my dad was being mean. In reality I think both my parents got something out of this deal. But, what I do remember is…  …that I remember this. Conflict and its counterpart euphoria have the same net effect in psychology

Emotional highs and lows actually impact the brain chemistry and things that happen during these times actually levee an impression on our brain. When it comes to marketing, if you can tie conflict or euphoria or happiness or pain or anything of high emotion to your message, the brain latches on to that.

Not A Street Brawl!

Learning to create content with those strong opposites, generates conflict.

  • Soft Conflicts – Putting a puppy in a bear commercial still requires conflict. Not a street brawl, but contrasts, even if those conflicts are implied or perceived. The important element is generating the kind of emotion that is critical for a powerful story.
  • Comedy – One of the reasons comedy works so well is that it is highly dependent on conflict and contrast. Any great comedian knows how to throw in a punch line that twists the story on its end and creates contrast or conflict on which irony rests.
  • Sharp Contrasts – Black and white. Short and tall. Swamp person. Crazy driver and screaming wife. These can generate low comfort for audience, but also evoke high emotions. A black and white photo can generate an emotion or a stark landscape.
  • Love – Care for a product. Joy over a great outcome. The fact your customer loves a product, implies great contrast. Somewhere, they had pain and now that pain is solved.

Understand that conflict or contrast is the concept. You can contrast two great ideas or a group of quirky characters. Creating a solution to a big problem is a kind of conflict.

Blog Me!

We’ve spent a little too much time creating white papers and blogs that are dry and factual. As a crafter of stories around brands, learning how to tell great narratives is important to keeping the reader engaged and the search engines latched to our content. The bulk of products (even industrial machines) are bought mostly on emotion. The better you do binding your product to high emotion, the better you are to keep your product cemented in the mind of your customer.

Your products are normally solving the result of the pain of a customer. “I’m hungry.” “My hair is falling out.” “Your breath stinks.” All of these are classic dramas that have become great marketing campaigns or great movies.

Conflict is one of the most useful tools you have when creating great content marketing. When you use conflict correctly, you will stand apart from the others.

The Beach

I rarely remember the time I spent at the beach, I do remember the wild ride with my parents. Fortunately, my dad never got in an accident. My parents were a lot like Lucy and Ricky Ricardo and their adventures were not far off from that fictional TV family. My mom is still a bit wacky and my dad screamed a bit like Ricky, but in German not Spanish. I think it was the conflicts and those moments that really held us together and cemented those memories so firmly.



Carl Hartman is a former executive with a major American television network, reality television producer and co-founder of Brand.gineering. His best-selling book Brand.gineering: A 14-Step Powerful & Profitable Brand Development Blueprint for the Digital Marketing Age, is available exclusively on Amazon.