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  • Writer's pictureJillian Felty

Frame Your Messaging Like The Good Place (or Go to The Bad Place!)

Part 6 of the StoryBrand Framework

What makes the ultimate story? What keeps you hooked – on the edge of your seat – until the very end? I’ll tell ya: it’s the stakes.

The stakes are those big questions that you wonder about throughout the entire movie, until the credits roll.

Will The Avengers defeat Thanos? Will that snap annihilate all life as we know it?

Will Maverick be able to lead the team through the canyon to destroy the uranium plant?

A good story always has something at stake. There are dire consequences that could happen if the hero doesn’t get the job done, just as much as there are huge successes that could happen if the hero wins the day.

Even if you’ve got a product or service that solves a real problem in the world, customers won’t always engage with you unless they understand what’s at stake in their story. So, how the heck do you communicate the stakes in your hero’s story? By getting super clear with the next part of the StoryBrand Framework – Success and Failure.

Sooooo, What’s the StoryBrand Framework?

The StoryBrand Framework is a proven marketing framework built around the 7 elements of story - Identity Transformation, Hero, Problem, Guide, Plan, and Success or Failure. Essentially, it takes your brand’s message and frames it in a story-like format, so that your customers connect deeper with your brand, right from the start (kind of like getting hooked to a show like The Good Place).

(P.S. Want to work directly with our StoryBrand Certified Guide on your brand’s story? Schedule a call here. ✨)

How to End the Story ~ The Stakes.

If you’ve ever watched any kind of TV show or movie, then you know there has to be something at stake: The hero (a weak character) has a problem, and meets a guide (someone who can help them) that shows them the way to success and helps them avoid failure.

The thing is, there has to be something at stake in order for there to be a good story. If the Hunger Games was just a game of tag with no real winner or consequence, we (the audience) would be bored out of our minds. That’s not a story worth watching.

So when it comes to your marketing, you have to foreshadow the stakes: How could your customer’s story end?

In other words, you need to show your customer what might happen if they do business with you – or what could happen if they don’t.

  • Success – the short and long-term successes a customer might experience when they choose you.

  • Failure – the short-term failures a customer might experience when they don’t choose you (going too far on this can seem too doom-and-gloom, so strategic, short-term failure here is key!)

When you share what’s at stake in your customer’s story, you show them why you’re the right choice – and continue to make the story about their ultimate success and transformation.

Success and Failure at Work in 😇 The Good Place 👿

When I was planning this series, it took me less than five seconds to figure out what I would write about this piece of the Framework. The Good Place is the perfect example of Success and Failure because the stakes are extremely simple: If you’re a good person, you go to the Good Place. If you’re a bad person, you go to the Bad Place.

So when the rude, self-centered, self-proclaimed “Phoenix Trash” Eleanor Shellstrop arrives in the Good Place, it doesn’t take her long to realize she is not supposed to be there. She’s surrounded by Nobel Prize winners and human rights activists – there had been a huge mistake.

So what’s at stake for Elanor? If she gets caught, she goes to the Bad Place. But what happens if she becomes a good person? Will they let her stay in the Good Place forever?

What the Stakes Mean for Your Message

If there’s nothing at stake in a story, there’s no story. So in order to position your brand in your customer’s story, you have to outline the stakes. To communicate successes, list every positive outcome your customer will experience after they do business with you.

Some success examples we’ve written for our clients include:

  • Save hours of time that could be spent watching The Good Place ;)

  • Show off clear, glowy skin that brings you joy every time you look in the mirror

  • Save your money so you can spend it on literally anything else

  • Transform your child into a confident learner that can read (and understand!) any book on the shelf

  • Enjoy even more of your backyard view (and make every visitor jealous)

  • Kick back on the beach with a Mai Tai while your business runs itself

But you can’t have success without failure. When crafting a StoryBrand message, you also have to outline what failures you’re helping your audience avoid. While it can be incredibly tempting to only focus on the positives, studies show that people are more driven by the fear of losing something than they are motivated by the success of gaining something.

Keep in mind that failure-focused language can easily feel manipulative. While today’s consumer is loss-averse, they’re not suckers. They won’t fall for over-the-top, dramatic sales pitches about all the failures that will happen to you if you don’t buy this thing! Because frankly, we’re dealing with the most informed consumer of all time. And they can smell a sleazy sale tactic a mile away.

That’s why we recommend you focus only on the strategic, short-term failures your audience might experience. In other words, don’t tell your audience they’ll lose their money, their house, and their partner if they don’t do business with you. There are lots of ways to work in failure language while still being ethical!

Some examples of failure we’ve written for our clients include:

  • Waste hours piecing together a duct-tape-and-bailing-wire solution that doesn’t give you results

  • Continue to try every product on the shelf without seeing a change

  • Wonder if your child is getting enough attention in class with 30 other students

  • Feel stifled and suffocated by closed-off, boring living spaces

  • Work longer hours than ever, hoping for the day you get to take a vacation

Keep Your Customers Out of The Bad Place!

In order to invite your customers into a good story worth telling, there has to be something at stake. Of course, you want to help keep them out of The Bad Place! So, help your customers along the way by sharing what success looks like – and what you can help them avoid.

  • Use stories to captivate readers, emphasize the benefits of your services, and demonstrate how to solve customers’ problems.

  • Connect potential consequences to emotion to motivate readers to act on your message

  • Use personality and successes to establish an authentic brand voice, take advantage of opportunities, and share unique insights.

By showing your customers what’s at stake in their story, you can create a more meaningful message that will keep customers hooked and wanting to stay in “The Good Place”!

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