Like any good movie, an ad should make you feel something — or at least that’s what Don Draper would say. With the advertising industry’s strong shift towards values-based marketing in recent years, more brands are flexing their emotional chops.
In 2014, an Edelman study revealed that 66% of consumers felt customer-brand relationships were one-sided, while nearly 70% believed the only goal of consumer communication was to increase profits. Since then, companies across the board have been making huge strides to show their soft sides — all to connect with audiences.
So what does this mean for the viewer? For starters, a seemingly safe sit on the couch might just end in waterworks. And if it ends in waterworks, you better believe they’ll remember it. It also means that, as we approach advertising from a more cinematic mindset, we may also incrementally lower the cognitive ad barrier that so many younger generations have grown up with.
And this means that — at long last — we’re finally reaching people.
While we’ve come to expect this angle from juggernauts like Coca-Cola and Google, a host of others have since joined their ranks. Here are five brands that are embracing and owning this new frontier of marketing:
University of Phoenix
Let’s be honest. The University of Phoenix is a money-making, degree-churning machine. That’s the definition of the for-profit educational system. But what does that machine run on, exactly? Tear-jerking mom ads.
Capitalizing on their motto, “Together We Rise,” the institution’s latest ads hone in on the pillars of tenacity, resurgence and triumph. The end goal? To inspire their audience to pursue higher education (and give them money, of course). Two spots stand out, in particular:
Both ads include representations of an underprivileged female demographic, which happens to comprise a large portion of online college target audience. What’s better? This isn’t simply representation for the sake of it. They’ve crafted intimate storylines around each, bringing to light the struggles that so many in their target group face. These intimate stories keep the audience in focus, highlighting the university’s services only peripherally.
Finally, and probably most effectively, these ads reinforce the idea that the University of Phoenix is more than just an online college. It’s a vehicle to pick yourself up and achieve success, despite the insurmountable odds placed against you—or at least, that’s what they’re selling.
While Toyota’s current majority of ads remain heavily product focused, the manufacturing giant has begun to dip its toes into more mainstream storytelling features. Released prior to Super Bowl LII’s halftime show, Toyota’s “One Team” ad tastefully mixes religion with sports to create a feel-good spot with a strong message — especially given the current political climate.
The company is also beginning to capitalize on its ongoing initiative, Toyota Mobility. This internal development branch connects Toyota ingenuity with accessibility conversion companies to produce mobility options for vehicles and people.
While neither of these subjects directly highlights Toyota’s vehicles, they both speak to the brand’s commitment to providing transportation and encouraging unity.
Yes, we live in a world where even biscuits can make you cry. While it’s debatable to say that Pillsbury rarely includes aspects of the home in their marketing, many of their earlier ads strongly focused on the product: a fluffy plate of croissants or beautifully buttered biscuits rolling into the oven — often with mom and others playing second fiddle.
However, Pillsbury’s 2017 holiday season was marked with a collection of ads that allowed sentimental notes on friends, family and togetherness to upstage the brand’s golden biscuits. Running at only 16 seconds each, the television spots capitalize on strong, values-driven copy and visual elements to hit the heart:
As a member of the P&G brand family, Always doesn’t fall far from their resonant, emotionally dynamic marketing tree. This is a brand who knows their audience well, taking advantage of every opportunity to make a connection.
While earlier campaigns focused heavily on product reliability, their voice began to pivot in response to increased movements of feminism across the country. In 2014, the brand unveiled the “Like a Girl” campaign, which took an otherwise offensive phrase and turned it on its head.
Originally intended to reach younger Millennial females, the campaign’s final impact spread far beyond those borders. The Always YouTube channel has since received over 85 million global views from more than 150 countries.
If we’re talking about brand storytelling, we have to mention Lyft. The app-based carpool service takes a strong plunge into narrative with its animated short, “June,” which follows an elderly woman’s journey as a Lyft driver.
Rather than focus on the obvious perks of using Lyft, the short highlights the personal connections June makes on her trips and how those connections add to her own quality of life. Trust me, it’s worth the seven minutes.
Aside from its stab at the small screen, Lyft also has a great visual campaign that drives home their belief that life should be fast, fun and convenient.
Questions? Comments? Concerns?
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