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Author's Note:
The writer

jim hardison

Jim Hardison is the creative director and co-founder of Character. He brings the knowledge of character and story he’s gained as a writer, animator and director in commercials and entertainment to his exploration of brand characters.

He started his professional career by producing a low-budget direct-to-video feature, The Creature from Lake Michigan. Making a bad film can be a crash course in the essential elements of good character and story, and The Creature from Lake Michigan was a tremendously bad film. Jim learned his lesson well, and after a brief stint recuperating as a freelance writer and film editor, founded his own production company. During its seven-year run, he wrote, directed and edited live-action and animation productions, including educational films, television commercials and television pilots. Shifting his focus to animation, Jim joined Will Vinton Studios in 1997 as an animation director. 

While working at Vinton, he co-wrote the television special Popeye’s Voyage: The Quest for Pappy with actor Paul Reiser. Jim has appeared on The Apprentice as an expert advisor on brand characters, has written for the PBS children’s series SeeMore’s Playhouse and has authored graphic novels and books. These include The Helm, a graphic novel for Dark Horse comics that was named one of 2010’s top ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens by the American Library Association, Demon Freaks, a horror comedy, and Fish Wielder, an epically silly epic fantasy named one of the Five Best Indie Sci-Fi & Fantasy Novels of 2017 by Kirkus Reviews. 

He’s currently working on A Fish Out of Water the sequel to Fish Wielder.

“Character gets to the heart of what good storytelling is all about. They’ve helped Wendy’s focus on what makes us unique, different and special and that’s helped us to get people’s attention, keep their interest and keep the business growing. We compete with much larger brands, but by being overt about how we want to attack those differences, we’ve been able to have a lot of tension and conflict in the story that we are telling. That allows us to keep the story fresh and to fuel it. The more we do that the more positive attention we get as a brand and the more the brand continues to grow, which, in turn, builds our confidence in our storytelling and keeps the courage level high.”

—Kurt  Kane, President U.S. & Chief Commercial Officer, Wendy’s Corporation

“I’ve been through Character’s story framework process four times in my career, and it has always added extraordinary value. It was a central piece of Walmart’s rebranding effort in 2006, as we sought a new articulation of our brand narrative and our purpose. It’s an equally powerful tool for us now, as Walmart defines its place in a rapidly transforming retail environment. And we are currently using it to do the same for Sam’s Club.”

—Tony Rogers, Chief Marketing Officer, Walmart

“Since articulating our story framework, Gallo has had its best year. We’re up 10% and we’re outpacing the category. From a creative standpoint it’s been great because we’re all in alignment. Now that we have the articulation of our story, our social media, our partnerships, our programs, our packaging—it all makes sense.”

—Stephanie Gallo, Chief Marketing Officer, E&J Gallo Winery