I just finished reading Dracula again. 🧛
(I know, right – “again”?!? #TeenageGoth4Life)
It’s funny when you revisit a book or a movie that’s become so much more than just ‘a story’, and see how it’s grown into something else.
What starts out as just words on a page or a screen can take on an (after)life of its own…
And sometimes when the written word inspires a cultural phenomenon – as Dracula undoubtedly has – it can be a bit of a let-down to go back and find that the book itself is…
The man, the myth, the legend, has definitely outgrown his roots.
For starters, the Count we’ve all come to know (and, you gotta admit: to love) as probably the most famous and compelling horror villain of all time isn’t even in the book very much.
In fact, he’s barely there throughout the 300+ pages of my dog-eared paperback edition…
On page 41 he hops nonchalantly out of his Transylvanian castle like he’s just checking out of an Airbnb, and doesn’t reappear for another 100 pages or so.
(Apart from as a bat fluttering at windows, which just isn’t the same.)
When he’s not involved, Bram Stoker’s story really suffers without him…
There’s a lot of swooning, a lot of people telling each other how “good” and “most wonderful” they are…
…and there’s a LOT of correspondence between lawyers and other squares about train timetables and cargo ships.
Gimme some BLOOD! Some DEATH! Some BITE!
When Drac finally reappears towards the climax, the book comes back to life (appropriately) as he heads for a showdown with our extremely-dull-by-comparison band of goody-two-shoes ‘heroes’.
(Let’s face it: villains are always more fun.)
Yet despite all that, Dracula the novel still inspired a blood-drinking, fang-bearing, cloak-wearing, coffin-bursting legacy:
Film and TV adaptations, legions of
obsessive nerds devoted fans and imitators, festivals and secret societies, parodies and spin-offs.
Because the BIG IDEA of Dracula himself transcends his slightly underwhelming origins (sorry Bram!)
He’s still with us, seared into our imaginations – no matter how different our image of him is from the novel’s “tall old man, clean shaven save for a long white mustache…”
Count Dracula is a uniquely interesting character, distinctive and memorable with a variety of ‘hooks’ for us to grab onto:
There’s the aversion to garlic, and crosses…
The stake through the heart thing, and the bat transformation…
The need to be invited into a home before he can enter…
Not to mention the ability to turn mortals into vampires too.
These hooks are what made the story and the character so popular back in 1897, and what keeps Drac alive today (that and fresh blood of course).
Funnily enough, I noticed the same thing when re-watching the movie Hellraiser recently – for the first time since I snuck downstairs after midnight to catch it on TV as a kid, hoping to be thrillingly terrified while my parents were asleep.
My 2020 grown-up verdict: daft movie, some TERRIBLE acting.
But a great idea…
Because Hellraiser is another case of a villain outgrowing his surroundings and becoming an icon:
He was the nightmarish character who stared out menacingly yet invitingly at me and my teenage pals from Blockbuster’s rental shelves back in the 90’s.
You know the guy:
Looks like he’s been in some kind of one-in-a-zillion industrial accident, and has come back to claim the insurance payout.
Now, Hellraiser the movie may look kind of a shonky effort today (like most 1980s ‘video nasties’, to be fair)…
But viewers went NUTS for Pinhead.
He ended up on all the posters, becoming ‘the face’ of the franchise. Like an acupuncture-disaster Darth Vader.
People demanded more and more of him in the sequels, and his character gained iconic status, like Dracula before him.
Again, while ‘Pinhead’ is only on-screen for a few minutes of the first Hellraiser film (and unnamed), his striking makeup and actor Doug Bradley’s dramatic delivery gave the deadly dude an air of grotesque melancholy.
As well as being terrifying to look at, he was hard to look away from.
Like Dracula, Pinhead started as a great CORE IDEA that took root in the audience’s imagination and became a recognisable and beloved brand.
Hopefully you’re starting to see what the public’s fascination with these bloodthirsty monsters has to do with your biz…
No, you don’t need to become a centuries-old undead aristocrat or a hell-dwelling leather fetishist (although if you do, please let me know)…
But your brand, your sales, your biz growth are all dependent on your strongest, most hook-filled BIG IDEA.
And your core message should reflect that big idea, again and again, wherever your ideal prospects might encounter it.
Like with Dracula and Hellraiser, you can elevate that idea above the day-to-day of your biz with the right messaging.
(An outcome I like to call
SELLING HELLING UNIQUE).
What is the ONE unique
ly horrible thing you want your audience to remember about your offer, or your story?
What (or who?) will
haunt their nightmares stick in their mind about your sales message, even if they leave your site?
unearthly delights memorable ‘hook’ can you present them with to offer a taste of how your product or service is different to anything else?
Ok, it’s almost sunset here…
Time for me to turn in and listen… to the children of the niiiiiiight.