When it’s right to stereotype

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Video game designers know how to press your buttons – especially your dopamine response.

They design little challenges and then offer the sweet rewards of “leveling up” and winning the “sword of power.”

They’ve learned to follow the classic pattern of stories – goal, conflict, result.

But sadly, I never played video games much.

In fact, the new ones scare me. One glance at those dizzying 3D landscapes and my head spins.

But I do love me some classic Nintendo Games, especially my most favorite of all …

Final Fantasy I – the original.

Battle Scene from Final Fantasy.

Madponies are fierce.

 

The STORY

Released in 1987, Final Fantasy thrusts you into a world ravaged by the four elements gone rogue – Earth, Fire, Water, and Wind.

You (and three companions) are the Light Warriors – tasked with restoring balance to this blackened world.

But it ain’t going to be easy. (Just wait till you step on the toes of the green Zombie Dragon in the last dungeon. You think fire is dangerous? Try a whiff of Poison Gas.)

It’s a great tale told in 2D pixelated graphics … but my favorite part of all is at the very beginning of the game.

Because that’s when you choose your party of 4 light warriors.

Each of your four warriors must be one of several “Types”: Fighter (uses weapons), Black Belt (uses hands), Black Mage (uses attack magic), White Mage (uses defensive and healing magic), Red Mage (a little bit of each), and the dark horse, the Thief (good at running away.)

Each type has its own strengths and weaknesses.

The Fighter is strong and doesn’t kill easily … but you have to pay through the nose in gold coins to keep him armored in style.

The Black Mage can inflict heavy casualties … but he’s more fragile than a paper flower caught in the rain. (An ogre breathes on him and he folds.)

So in the very beginning of this joystick world, the people of the world are divided into very distinct types.

And this division … this “Categorization into Types” … gives immense power to the storyteller … because it allows her to frame the tale and control the conversation.

I call it the “Morlock Rule”.

(After the imagined future in H.G. Wells Time Machine, when the human race has split into the industrious Morlocks and the lay-about Eloi. Sure, the Morlocks eat the Eloi … but nobody’s perfect.)

We all hunger to find our place in the world, and the Morlock Rule gives us a simple way to do this.

That’s why so many of us flock to personality tests like Myers-Briggs (Are you an INTJ? or an ENFP?)

Or even the simple division into extroverts and introverts.

Stories leverage this hunger for belonging to thrust us into an imagined world with a clear course of action.

Think of Harry Potter and the division of humans among Muggles and Wizards. The story only really starts when Harry understand this division … and his place in it.

An in sales literature, consider Andre Chaperon’s story of “Frank vs. Matt.”

Andre is the marketing story master who gave the world the Soap Opera Sequence for emails, and in the F v. M story, he puts the Morlock Rule to work for the very basis in the tale — heck, the title alone does the trick.

The world that Andre creates in his story is the world of making money online. And in this world, there are two types.

Frank is a wannabee dilettante … he never puts in the proper work to build a true foundation of wealth. His money-making jaunts are built on a house of twigs.

Matt is a long-range thinker and actor. He pours the foundation of his online empire with heavy, enduring stone.

Andre’s story captures enough reality to pull us into his world and nod along with him.

And we instantly ask ourselves: “Am I a Matt or — *gulp* — a Frank?”

Andre uses the Morlock Rule to control the conversation, and teach us how the world works.

There’s also no question of what we should do next.

If you’re into making money online, the next time you purchase a domain name or write up a lead magnet, you can’t help but think – “WWMD?” (What Would Matt Do?)

Just like that, our perception of reality has been transformed.

Now we want to be a Matt … and who better to teach us than the person who showed us the way things really are?

As you can see, the Morlock Rule works effectively when there’s a good and a bad – a light and a dark. (Or a “Goofus and Gallant”, for any of you who laughed along with the magazine Highlights as kids.)

But it doesn’t have to be exclusively bad or good. Just as long as your use of the Rule helps your reader to see the world in a new way and make it easy to take the next logical step – to do business with you.

The MORAL

Use the Rule to categorize the world of your marketplace into important types. Best if there’s a good and a bad, so you can show the way of the good.

Is there a simple and mostly accurate way to divide the people in your market? Let me know in the comments below.

And, as always,

Stay Tuned for Next Time

Where a friend shows me how he uses story to keep customers coming back for more punishment (he’s a personal trainer)

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Scott McKinstry
Scott McKinstry
Scott McKinstry is a direct response copywriter who specializes in telling stories. You can contact Scott and learn more about using the power of stories in marketing at marketingwithstory.com.
Showing 2 comments
  • Ross
    Reply

    Great concept Scott. Love the idea of drawing the lines and asking your readers to choose.

    What’s interesting here is that after you draw the line and pick your side, you can take a stand for those people. You can show them you have a purpose, and you are relevant.

    If it’s something the reader identifies with, then they will have to pay close attention.

    Great work. One of my fav story sells yet.

  • Scott McKinstry
    Reply

    Thanks, Ross. True — when someone describes me to a t, I feel like he can help me.

    I think that’s a draw of zodiac signs — you read (even a fairly vague) description of your sign and think, “yeah, that’s me — I can be a complete schizo — ahem, gemini –” … and you’re a little bit more ready to believe in your forecast.

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