Branding Lessons from The Princess Bride

I have copied this post in its entirety from Beg to  10 Brand Strategy Lessons from “The Princess Bride” by Dennis Van Staalduinen. How perfect is this for romance writers! My thoughts on how Princess Bride brand strategy connects to my previous articles on author branding is below.

Branding lesson 1:  Names matter.

Westley: No one would surrender to the Dread Pirate Westley.

Making your business into a “Dread Pirate Roberts” is the subject dealt with in the blog post mentioned earlier. But in branding terms, note that the intangible qualities of your name are very important to set the stage for your branding conversation with a customer – or to “inspire the appropriate terror” if that’s your objective.

Branding Lesson 2: Persistence Pays.

Inigo: Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

HelloRepeat your brand promise to yourself over and over as a mantra. Craft the mission as a conversation starter, so a listener simply has to find out the story of your brand. And when it comes down to the final fight, have that mission on your lips as you ruthlessly carry it out.

Branding lesson 3: Got a miracle pill? Help your customers swallow it.

Inigo Montoya: That’s a miracle pill?
Valerie: The chocolate coating makes it go down easier.

It doesn’t matter how miraculous, how sexy, or how “game-changing” you think your product is. If customers don’t recognize it as such, you won’t sell a single unit. Learn what simple things you can add to your whole-brand package to help your customers “get it” as quickly as possible.

Branding lesson 4: Know their pain.

Man in Black: Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.

But remember that helpful chocolate coating in one market may look like manipulative “sugar coating” in another – and that looks like empty marketing hype and that’s a bad thing.

Keep it real. Use a straightforward tone of voice, and tell the truth. Don’t gloss over customer objections, customer hang-ups, or your own shortcomings. Customers are smart enough to know where the real pain is, and they’d prefer that it not be you.

Branding lesson 5: Building a strong brand takes time.

Miracle Max: You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.

You can’t cut corners. So even if the end result seems like a miracle pill to your customers, you have to patiently build your equity and their trust over time.

Branding lesson 6: Always a) expect the inconceivable and b) respect your competition.

Inigo Montoya: You are sure nobody’s follow’ us?
Vizzini: As I told you, it would be absolutely, totally, and in all other ways inconceivable…incidentally, why do you ask?
Inigo Montoya: (later in the scene) He’s right on top of us. I wonder if he is using the same wind we are using.

If you are in the lead in your market, congratulations. That’s great. But don’t get so cocky you forget to analyze what’s happening behind you. Otherwise, your competitors (who are also smart and dedicated) may “find a different wind”.

Branding Lesson 7:  Choose your words carefully.

Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

If you try to sound intelligent and savvy without also being a student of your customers’ language, you can quickly lose the respect you are trying so to win. Make sure you mean what you think you mean.

Branding lesson 8: Use the right strategy for the situation.

Inigo Montoya: You are using Bonetti’s Defense against me, eh?
Man in Black: I thought it fitting considering the rocky terrain.

Know your opponent and your terrain. But don’t get too set in your ways. Your opponent may only be pretending to be left handed, so if you have to switch, be flexible enough to do so quickly.

Branding lesson 9: Watch out for the R.O.U.S.’s

Buttercup: Westley, what about the R.O.U.S.’s?
Westley: Rodents Of Unusual Size? I don’t think they exist.
[Immediately, an R.O.U.S. attacks him]

Every industry has a few Rodents Of Unusual Size doesn’t it? And some more than others (no names here).

But beyond the obvious point about hidden dangers we choose not to see, the author of the original novel is having some fun here with our propensity for using jargonny abbreviations and acronyms – even when effective communication could mean the difference between life and death. Just call them Monster Rats and watch your back! (for more on this, see our July 31 post the 25 worst acronyms).

Branding lesson 10: Love conquers all

Buttercup: You can’t hurt me. Westley and I are joined by the bonds of love. And you cannot track that, not with a thousand bloodhounds, and you cannot break it, not with a thousand swords.

As the grandson in the movie might say, “yuck, is this a kissing blog?” But seriously. In human or brand relations, the bonds of human affection, attachment, and commitment are awsomely powerful forces. So if you’re looking for a happy ending for your brand, focus on building those real human links that will help you and your customers survive a thousand swords.

Malle’s take for writers:

Names matter. Think how obsessive you are about finding the right name for a character (I currently have a hero whose name I have changed at least 5 times while writing the ms, and it is still not the right fit). Do you spend as much time paying attention to your name? Updated bios, photos, links, etc.

The chocolate coding. Your novel can be incredibly complex, unusual, unique but is there some easy entry way for readers? You don’t have to do this, Alice Sebold did not in The Lovely Bones but I must have had 20 people recommend this book before I would even open it to the first page. And then of course her voice won me over in the first paragraph.

Keep it real. Be genuine to what you love. If sexy hot vampires are all the rage but you love writing historical cowboys, keep writing historical cowboys. Times will change.

Developing a brand takes time. Yes, it does. Several people asked me how long it takes to build an author brand and I do not have a good answer. I think it takes more than 4 books.

Be aware of your competition. This doesn’t mean you should copy your competition, but if someone has done something new in an interesting way, is there any part of it you could adapt. That does not mean you need to write the next Twilight book. But if part of the apeal is from multiple books aka a miniseries, can you do something with a miniseries? Is there a learning and a differentiator you can use?

Author branding helps you find new readers. I hope the above 10 tips help!



  1. Angelina Barbin

    As a new writer I haven’t seen this comparison before. There is a lot I can work with in this blog.



  1. Branding | Personal Development for Success

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