BrandScript Element 1 - Identify the Character


These are my notes from reading Donald Miller's book on Building a StoryBrand. Chapter 4 goes through the first stage of his BrandScript Framework which is about building a compelling character.

I'll be documenting my exploration into how to create a character profile for branding stories so that the target audience is able to relate to it.

If you want to check out the other parts of this series, the links are below:

  1. Overview
  2. Identify the Character
  3. Create a Villain
  4. Introducing a Guide
  5. Give them a Plan
  6. Call them to Action
  7. Prevent Failure
  8. End with a Win
  9. Participate in Their Transformation
  10. Brandscript your Website
  11. The Narrative Void
  12. The Marketing Roadmap

1. The Principle: The Character is not YOU

It's really easy to put yourself or your brand as the hero of the story.

Try not to.

People are ego-centric and focus on their own goals and problems. While they might find your story interesting, but it won't be as compelling as it would if you made them the hero of the story and show them how they can make a transformation in their lives.

The first time customers see your brand, they will be asking:

Can your brand really help me get what I want?

2. Build a Story Gap - Identify Desires

Good stories open up with a story gap. This is the gap between where the customer is now and where they want to be.

The only way to do this is to ask yourself:

What does the customer ACTUALLY want?

Examples are:

  • I want to stop my back from hurting
  • I want to be look athletic
  • I want to have more time to myself

While it's not prescribed in the book, I think it might be helpful to brainstorm a lot of potential desires to pick from.

Singular Focus

While the customer may have multiple desires that a brand can help them with, finding one singular point of entry helps to direct them through the main plotline.

The other desires can act as subplots that bring them surprise and delight.

But how do you pick which one?


When selecting the focal point of want for your character, look for something that is key to their survival.

Types of survival instincts:

  • Conserving financial resources
  • Conserving time
  • Building social networks.
  • Gaining status.
  • Accumulating resources.
  • The innate desire to be generous.
  • The desire for meaning

Don't be vague!

One of the dangers of creating a character profile is choosing a desire that is too vague.

If the customer can't clearly understand what they get by engaging with the brand, they're less likely to take action.

Being specific and concrete about a particular desire makes them feel like you actually understand their issues.


Once we've thought through and chosen our desire, draft up a short catch phrase that encapsulates the brand's proposition.


In conclusion, it feels like building a character profile for your branding story is about putting yourself in their shoes. It builds a connection with them. By creating a story gap around a single critical desire they wish to fulfil, you can create a compelling character that the customer can relate to and is interested in finding out more.


Let's try out what we've just learned.

Here are three examples I've tried. I went on to Google Maps to find any random businesses. Here are some in my local area. I just looked for businesses with websites and tried to do as good of a job as I can to identify who the customer is.

I've tabulated my practice here.

Business Name What do they do? Customer Attributes Brainstorm desires Survival Instincts Single focus Refine Rationale
Kingsgrove Cats Boarding house for cats Owns cat Lives in area Peace of mind, Time away, Travel Conserving time Travelling with peace of mind that my cat is safe Travel without worry Focuses on the desire to travel because sometimes it's impractical to go with pets. Owners want to make sure that their pets are looked after while they're away.
Mane Painters Hair colouring Female Lots of hair Look amazing, Transformation, Colour Gaining status Transforming you with new hair Feel new with fresh colour Target the feeling that you get when you apply fresh colour to your hair. The shop provides multiple colouring services to choose from but they all try to do the same thing - give you a new look.
Little Leaves Piano Piano teaching High school student Be able to play the instrument, look good to peers, interested in music, career in music, parents told me to learn Gaining status Play the piano to wow your friends Wow your mates by making the piano sing! I'm torn between two versions of this. From experience, I know there is a lot of drive from parents who want their kids to just progress through piano grades. I've chosen the other side which targets students that are personally motivated to learn piano. I've made the story focus on getting peer approval through musical ability.
Austral Bricks Styled bricks Home renovators Build a strong house Be safe Have a quiet house Gaining Status Conserving time The desire for meaning Style your home Your home. Your style. Even though the desire to have a strong brick house is a valid path for pitching, the strength can be can be assumed by the brick product themselves. Those looking at brick homes are already quite wealthy so the things they tend to care more about is how they look. Giving the customer the ability to style their house plays into their desire to express themselves through the look of their house.
Hot Tyres Sell Wheels and Tyres Wheel Services Has car Needs new tyres To drive Cost effective Conserving money Conserving time I want to drive Keep rolling Tyres and tyre services are needed when you've used your car for a while and you start getting wear and tear. The products seem to cater for the more cost sensitive customer. However, a more financially effective approach might be to focus on the ability to keep driving.
Duo Duo Ice cream and Donuts Sweet tooths Satisfy craving Seeking Novelty Desire for meaning I want to try lots of interesting desserts Taste the craft Looking at their website, their front page showcases them as the hero of the story. "Obsessed with the craft..." I get that they want to convey that they are really good at dessert making. If we tweak it to "Taste the craft", it makes the story about the customer with the hint that these are specialist desserts.
Uturn Outlet Second hand fashion Fashionable Look good Save money Reduce waste Gaining status Conserving money Being generous I want to look good without spending so much money Create your own style The hero wants to be fashionable but financially and waste conservative. Focusing on their desire to create their own fashion sense.

Practice yourself!

If you want to try it out as well, here is a form you can try to fill in. Copy and paste your results into a notepad on your computer to avoid losing your data. Refreshing the page will wipe it clean.

The Character

Imagine you are building a BrandScript for a company. Write up a character profile that you would use for the rest of the story.

Character Attributes

What does your character look like?


What does the character want?

Single Focus

Which desire is the most critical to their survival?


Refine their ambition into a short statement


What was your thinking behind your choice?