6 StoryBrand BrandScript Mistakes

October 30, 2023

If you’re here, you’ve heard about StoryBrand and the StoryBrand BrandScript. But you may not realize the common BrandScript mistakes too many people make. In this article, you’ll learn what those mistakes are and how to avoid them.

What is a StoryBrand BrandScript?

The StoryBrand BrandScript is a powerful tool to organize your thoughts, clarify your messaging, and create something incredibly powerful.

The layout makes it easy to follow the StoryBrand Framework. The result is a clear message that makes money. Many people think just doing a BrandScript fixes everything. This is not the case. If mistakes are present, then the messaging just won’t work (and that’s super frustrating). After reviewing hundreds–if not thousands–of StoryBrand BrandScripts, I’ve seen some people make a lot of mistakes. Thankfully, there are only a few mistakes people make. More importantly, they are easy to avoid and easy to fix.

Wanting too much in a BrandScript

The first common mistake is wanting too much in a BrandScript. I've seen it over and over again with more than 200 clients and countless other situations. People go to the Livestream, read Building a StoryBrand, or enroll in Business Made Simple University. They hear about the StoryBrand Framework and feel confident they can fill out the BrandScript on their own. But the inevitable often hits: including everything instead of just the necessary things. In other words, they’re scared to edit. Editing makes the BrandScript much better and more effective. The best way to think about this tool is as a script treatment. A script treatment is a term in the film industry. When a screenwriter wants to pitch a film, they create a summary in a few pages. It outlines the characters and the plot. No details, no dialogue, no fluff. Just a few pages simplifying everything to the core. A final script is 120+ pages. This document is four pages. It’s a summary.That’s what the BrandScript is: a summary. If we do the hard work to distill it down to its core essence, then we can build everything else around it. But if we don't do that hard work, then we will never know the root message we want to convey. Be comfortable with cutting stuff out. Good ideas–and even great ideas–can live elsewhere. The BrandScript should be simple.

It doesn’t “sound right”

“This just doesn’t sound like us.”This is a common statement at StoryBrand events. They finish everything, read it, and don’t immediately say “YES!”Instead, they say “Hmmmmmm.”The most common reason why? The BrandScript isn’t specific or connected. Let’s start with specifics. Stories live in details. Think about movies where the camera cuts to a small thing, only for that small detail to become a major point later. Or think about a TV show where we know the specific place where things take place. Vague, general points don’t work. It’s the specifics that make things stand out. And it’s what draws people in. For example: Let’s say your Internal Problem is “They feel frustrated.” It’s a fine (and often used) answer. What if you say why they’re frustrated or what makes them frustrated? Now your Internal Problem may be “With no clear marketing strategy in place, they’re frustrated by disappointing results.”The other reason a BrandScript doesn’t sound right is the story isn’t connected all the way through. Often this simply means:

  • The Character Want and Problem sections don’t align.
  • The Plan doesn’t actually solve the problem.
  • The whole thing doesn’t sound like what a customer says about you.

These are all easy fixes. They’re the same fix too: simply think about your story through the lens of a customer story. Get their story to align with your BrandScript. Then  BrandScript problem is gone.

Not having a “Want” that’s interesting

There are multiple ways to view this one. Some people think what a Character Want is what they Google to find you. This could be true. Another perspective is the Character Want is the bigger thing they’re really after. This is the approach I usually advocate. Here’s why: if you sell software, would you say your Character Wants “a B2B sales software”? Or would you say your Character Wants “a sales software that helps them make more money”?

  • Which one is more interesting?
  • Which one would make people say “YES!!” when they read it?
  • Which one sounds like what customers wake up in the morning ready to buy?

This BrandScript problem brings up a broader reminder: there is no right or wrong story, only a better or best story. This requires testing to see what really resonates with customers.

Fighting back the “whatabouts”

“This is great, but what about X?”I’ve heard this sentiment often. When people try to create clear messaging, an inner voice often appears. It’s a voice afraid to edit. Your company does a lot of great things for a lot of wonderful customers. When it comes to your BrandScript, though, it must be simple. The whatabouts must be removed and saved for somewhere else (like an email or social post). One way to solve this BrandScript problem is to ask What percentage of revenue does this represent? Attach decisions to dollars and the right answer quickly appears. Early in my StoryBrand journey I spoke with a new client about her company. I asked about their company services and the revenue attached to each service.

  • 5 services total
  • $5m in annual revenue
  • Service One made $4m per year
  • The other four services made $250k per year each
  • The other four services were most often used after someone used Service One

That realization instantly eliminated the other four services in her messaging and marketing. Why? Because only current customers bought those things. New customers bought Service One. Service One became the main thing. Everything else became a whatabout that moved somewhere else.

Telling a story customers don’t know they’re living

This may be the trickiest BrandScript problem to solve. Occasionally a company has a unique perspective or offering compared to competitors. This uniqueness may mean they’re trying to get customers to think differently about a problem or solution. Trying to change someone’s perspective isn’t easy. Some brands can do it. When it comes to the BrandScript, though, this is the exception, not the norm. The typical issue here is wanting to tell a story a customer doesn’t know about, doesn’t care about, or won’t cause people to take action. Think of an industry where basically every business says the same thing. Like an orthodontist. Orthodontists basically do one thing: straighten teeth. That’s the bulk of their revenue. Everyone knows what an orthodontist does. Choosing one isn’t about whether you want straight teeth or not (who doesn’t?). Yet most orthodontic marketing doesn’t get customers to show up and pay money. How could this be changed? By thinking about the story a potential customer is already living. What problems do they have other than crooked teeth? What are their fears and pain points beyond the implications of not having straight teeth? Lean in that story. Remember, StoryBrand works when it tells a story customers are already living. So do the hard work of uncovering that story, and you’re more likely to win.

Nailing the philosophical problem

Out of all the sections of the BrandScript, this one creates the most stress for people. It forces you to consider the underlying issue at work, the Why? behind what you’re really trying to solve. Nail it and your messaging gets much stronger. The key is how the question is framed. The common approach is asking something like Why is it just plain wrong for your customers to experience these problems? But why questions can be difficult to answer. Reframe the question with something like this: With all the things you could be doing, what is it about this problem that makes you want to get out of bed every day and solve it? Use your motivation to make a customer’s life better. There you find an incredibly compelling Philosophical Problem.

Congrats! You avoided the biggest BrandScript problems

After doing hundreds of client BrandScripts and hundreds more for StoryBrand events and other Certified Guides, I know these problems are the most common people face. And as you’ve seen, they are easy to fix. In the end, it comes back to the heart of the StoryBrand Framework: build a clear, simple, compelling message. That’s it. Focus on those things and the problems here will go away.

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