You Really Need an Enemy

By Aaron Griffiths Posted on Oct 07, 2013

You need an enemy. No seriously, you really do. Coke needs an enemy. Hershey needs an enemy. Nike. Apple. Obama. And Chrysler. Everyone needs an enemy. And you do, too. Why?
Because nobody cares what you have to say. Honestly, we're in advertising. Even when we're communicating on behalf of socially responsible organizations intent on doing the right thing, nobody cares what we have to say.
We are no longer in the business of delivering news about our products or on behalf of our brands with everyone tuned in, waiting on our every word. Truth is, we never were.
We're in the business of telling stories.
Wonderful, magical stories. Sometimes funny. Sometimes sad. But always emotional. And always true. We are in the business of engaging human beings in true brand stories. The only problem is, we often forget the basic fundamentals of storytelling.
Every story needs its narrative thread, context, transformation and a moral. But you can't engage people without a protagonist and an antagonist. You’ll find every great story has a good guy… and a bad guy. Imagine Jaws without the shark; it would be called The Life and Times of Police Chief Martin Brody and it would be the most boring film ever made.
So let's focus on our enemy. It just makes everything so much simpler. It gives us direction and a purpose. The enemy gives us something to fear and, in turn, something to fight for.
Think about religion. How thick would the Bible be without Hell? The good times are determined by the bad times. The good news by the bad. It's very simple math.
The better you know your enemy, the better you know yourself.
And the reason this all matters is that without this tension, nobody pays attention. Seriously. Nobody. And guess what? It's our job to get people to pay attention. When there’s tension in our stories people engage, respond, and share. And they do these things because they understand what your brand is fighting for.
Here are some key things to keep in mind as you identify your enemy and gather your armies:
Find what's true about your brand and identify the forces fighting against it. Your enemy will be among them. When you start with the truth, people will always be more engaged. Think about it. Whether your story is LOL funny or gut-wrenchingly sad, it's because it's true.
While dramas on stage and in literature can juggle multiple enemies, those of us in advertising need to keep things simple and choose one enemy. Nobody is scalping tickets to watch our stories unfold. Once you vanquish your enemy, feel free to set your sights on something new.
Resist the urge to go after a financial or business competitor. Choose an enemy that is formidable enough to be worthy of taking down. If you truly understand your consumer and choose your enemy accordingly, it's likely you will not be alone in your fight.
The problem with so much of what we do in advertising is that it has no focus, other than trying to make everyone happy. Which, as you know, just ends up pissing everybody off. Or worse, getting completely ignored. Instead, if you and your client find a common enemy, you understand what you're fighting against. And more importantly, what you're fighting for.
Go find your enemy.

Aaron Griffiths is a creative powerhouse with an award-winning career spanning many brand categories. His partnership with The Enemy theme creator and former Arnold Boston CCO, Pete Favat makes him the ideal thought leader to champion the Agency's Enemy viewpoint. In his role as Chief Creative Officer at ArnoldNYC, Aaron leads the agency's creative teams to ensure delivery of world-class strategy and innovation that reflects the speed and velocity required in our exploding social, digital and institutional media environment.



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