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The Story in Branding | #7 Protagonist & Antagonist




McKee: “A protagonist and his story can only be as intellectually fascinating and emotionally compelling as the forces of antagonism make them.”


One of the strongest storytelling principles is the antagonist principle. It is definitely a very useful way of sharpening marketing and communication. Some classic examples are Coke vs Pepsi, coming to life in the Pepsi Challenge (since 1975), and Apple’s campaign in a straightforward attack of Microsoft (ok, PC).

As marketers we have been part of many companies who had an “attack brand X” and even “kill brand Y” strategy, focused on their primary competitor. It is a great way to get people, organisations, even fans into gear. [The “kill brand Y” variant definitely not being my preferred wording.]


In today’s world there is the Facebook vs. Google battle, which was thought to have been won by Facebook in the social media domain (GooglePlus+YouTube vs Facebook + Instagram + WhatsApp + Messenger). Although right now you could argue Facebook is not the clear winner when it comes to public opinion. And what to think about the continuous battle between Nike and Adidas, sometimes won by Nike (even though Adidas was the main sponsor) and vice versa (with Kanye and Pharell teaming up with the brand “mit den drei Streifen”). Some others: Samsung vs Apple (or is Huawei the new big one?), RedBull vs Monster, Unilever vs Procter & Gamble.


So find your antagonist and try to motivate your colleagues, team, fans in a positive way; you’ll be surprised what energy, focus and creativity it will unlock. There may even be antagonists for different elements of the brand. Some would argue Heineken and Inbev are each others antagonist, but one could also argue actually Private Label beer brands or microbrews are the real antagonists.


McKee closing off: “Human nature is fundamentally conservative. We never do more than we have to, expend any energy we don’t have to, take any risks we don’t have to, change if we don’t have to. Why should we? Why do anything the hard way if we can get what we want the easy way? The answer to (...) [the] question(s) lies on the negative side of the story.



Storytelling has been hyped and booed off stage. We don’t really like either extreme. We simply value storytelling as a proven set of principles (not rules) to excite and entice an audience, build a brand and create great work. Nobody describes storytelling better than Robert McKee. That’s why we decided to take you with us on a journey, describing and capturing what we can learn from storytelling and its principles. We’ll start with a quote or excerpt from aforementioned book and illustrate the essence through a marketing example.



We will help you achieve Growth for Good by getting to the core of your brand, (re)shaping it, and connecting it to your audience. Peas+Carrots

Feel free to contact us via elmer@peascarrots.com or wilmar@peas-carrots.com or visit www.peas-carrots.com



#pepsichallenge #pepsi #apple #pc #microsoft #protagonist #antagonist #mckee #robertmckee #storytelling #storytellingprinciples #facebook #instagram #google #whatsapp #googleplus #messenger #Heineken #inbev #privatelabel #microbrews

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