What makes a memorable marketing campaign? What kind of advertisement keeps the audience hooked long after the “skip this ad” bar has appeared on the side of the video screen? The ads that often capture our attention incorporate marketing strategies that think outside of the box by engaging the audience with a compelling story. Science is also behind the reason we will let one ad run its full course while we can’t wait to get through another to get back to our regularly scheduled programming. The answer, supported by marketing expert Douglas Van Praet and evidence from neurobiology, evolutionary psychology, and behavioral economics, is to grab onto the audience’s emotions. Praet’s own words encourage marketers to appeal to the basics of human nature to gain more conversions:
“For too long, standard marketing theory has had it backwards. The most startling truth is we don’t even think our way to logical solutions. We feel our way to reason. Emotions are the substrate, the base layer of neural circuitry underpinning even rational deliberation. Emotions don’t hinder decisions. They constitute the foundation on which they’re made!”
Therefore, when you want to grab someone’s attention, rather than listing facts, you want to tell a good story. Do not force feed them something and tell them they need to have it, but gently invite them toward you. Give them a story they will be interested in, and if possible, a story they can personally relate to. The bottom line is to make the ad relevant and a pleasurable experience that will engage the user. In the past two years, we have seen some stunning storytelling campaigns that turn advertisement into entertainment, bringing in millions of viewers and maximizing brand exposure. Today, in honor of this successful marketing trend in the recent years in using good storytelling, we will showcase our top three picks for marketing campaigns that think outside the box..
1. Like a Girl– Always
In 2015, a Super Bowl ad from Always made waves long after its 60-second spotlight. The campaign has almost nothing to do with the feminine care product but everything to do with its customer persona: women. Resonating with the indomitable female spirit of perseverance, it connected with women worldwide. This campaign encouraged women and girls to not give up on their interests, showing it is possible to be unique and break the mold of expectations and continue to pursue sports, careers, or whatever else they have passion for.
This campaign was overwhelmingly successful in connecting Always with its client base, contributing to a more positive brand image. Fama Francisco, Vice President of Global Always, affirms this viewpoint by telling the press, “When you have a message that really addresses such an important and a real issue and it’s done in a way that is very consistent with who we are as a brand, I think consumers want to engage with that.”
2. “From Not Seeing My Limits.” – BP America
BP America, a sponsor for the 2016 Rio Olympics, conducted a powerfully emotional marketing campaign on their Facebook page. Posting inspirational videos of Paralympians overcoming their disabilities to become extraordinary athletes, they caught the attention of hundreds of thousands of Facebook users. One of their most emotional videos is of Lex Gillette, a blind U.S. Paralympian. Chronicling his arduous journey to become an athlete, the video closes with him blindfolding himself and running forward, finishing with the quote “where does my energy come from? From not seeing my limits.”
Commenters have been so moved by the video that they have flooded the comment section with words of encouragement to Lex, like, “You go, young man. That was the best story I heard all day. Good luck. You have taught us no excuses! We can overcome anything!” This ad, which had nothing to do with gasoline, was able to cross into the news feeds of thousands of users and got the attention of people who would not normally go to BP America’s Facebook page. How did BP get more likes and users on their page? By telling a great story.
3. I Will What I Want – UnderArmour
Another story, another underdog, and another triumph. Misty Copeland, who currently dances for the American Ballet Theatre, pursued her dreams of dancing in spite of the flood of naysayers telling her that she wasn’t the “right type.” UnderArmour posted her story on YouTube showing her dance beautifully as a successful prima ballerina while her voice over read aloud her former rejection letters. Dancing triumphantly, having proved the dissenters wrong, she is strong, proud, and beautiful. Copeland’s story got an overwhelming response from viewers, commending her for her perseverance. One user commented, “I almost have the same body type. When I see other ballerinas, they never look like me. Thank you Misty for giving me so much hope.”
Through this ad campaign, UnderArmour, a premier retailer of activewear, has cast its net even wider to reach more female customers through Misty Copeland’s story of overcoming the odds. The campaign quickly went viral, getting over 4 million views in a week, galloping swiftly across various social media platforms and YouTube. UnderArmour’s marketing strategy even captured the attention of Time Magazine, which identified the campaign as a move to rebrand itself, “empowering female athletes” and thus targeting a new customer persona.