How can you tailor your message to your target market? How can you position your brand as something that holds value and meaning for your customers? In Brian McCarthy’s Global Marketing class last term we discussed these and many other marketing related questions, and while there may be a variety of marketing strategies to choose from, arguably one of the best is by connecting with your audience on an emotional level. Some of the most memorable marketing campaigns in recent years are ones that have made effective use of inspirational or emotional themes. By creating an emotional impact for your audience, they will not only be more likely to remember your ad, but also develop more positive associations with your brand.
In this post I offer 3 points that are essential when trying to convey an emotional impact, followed by 3 commercials (Apple, Nike, and Chrysler) that exemplify these key points, with some brief background on each commercial.
Lesson 1: Know your audience.
This may seem obvious, but in reality a great many ads seem aimed at far too generic an audience to have much impact on any one particular group of people. By knowing specifically who your target audience is, and more importantly, what matters and is meaningful to them, your marketing will resonate much more strongly. As you will see below, some of the ads that do this best are able to speak to a specific group, place, and time, and tap into people’s feelings in such a way that the ad itself becomes another piece of that moment, even long after it has passed.
Lesson 2: Be positive.
The lesson here is that positive trumps negative. It’s often said that people respond better to positive messages, and this is no less true in marketing than in other situations. Each of the three examples below focus on inspirational, motivational themes, and have more impact as a result (although I mention one case where I feel the ad begins to stray from its mark). For examples of how NOT to motivate people through marketing, see any of the dozens of negative campaign ads that pop up during election season in the United States.
Lesson 3: Emphasize the message, and deemphasize the brand.
When it comes to placing your brand or product in your ad, less can often be more. Nobody wants to feel like they’re being pushed into buying something, even if they’re clearly aware that they’re seeing an advertisement. Advertising that features the brand, logo, or product name ad nauseam comes across as pushy, tacky, and may end up turning off most would be consumers. If you have a well-crafted and (genuinely) meaningful message for your target audience, a subtle reference to the brand during or toward the end of a commercial will often be all that is needed to achieve the desired effect. Plus, it just looks classier.
Apple – Think Different (1997)
“Think Different” was the tagline for an ad campaign that Apple began in 1997, with TV commercials and print ads that featured images of iconic 20th century figures such as Albert Einstein, Ghandi, John Lennon, and Amelia Earhart, among others. The TV commercials used a now famous monologue that began with the line, “Here’s to the crazy one’s..”, and finished with, “The people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do”. Through it’s tribute to these well-respected people who pushed the boundaries of their particular field, Apple sought to (re)establish its own brand as a brand for those who see themselves as visionaries, as dreamers, as standing out from the crowd. (See the original TV ad here.)
In this commercial we see a young man getting ready to go jogging, while we hear a TV newscaster’s voice listing the economic and environmental problems facing Japan. “The pessimist says the glass is half empty”, he says. “The optimist says the glass is half full…” Inspiring words that just about anyone can relate to, but the fact that this commercial was aired in Japan in 2012, almost a year after the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the country, meant that the hopeful message behind Own Tomorrow had special significance for the Japanese. After drinking his half-full glass of water, the young man steps outside and begins jogging, as he nods to first one, then two other young people who are also running on the road. He makes his way up flights of stairs and through parking lots, as we see more and more young Japanese running alongside him. By the end of the commercial, what began as a single person by himself, has become a whole street filled with active young men and women. The message? Be positive, be active, and be part of something larger than yourself. Simple, yet empowering. (See the commercial here.)
Probably one of the more memorable ads that ran during the 2012 Super Bowl, this commercial drew a poignant analogy between halftime during a tournament, and the uncertainty in the U.S. economy, and related that to the Detroit auto industry and the hard times it has faced. Similar to the Nike ad mentioned above, this Chrysler commercial went for an emotional impact by tapping into the collective challenges faced by many Americans at the time. By relating the U.S. auto industry’s difficulties to those experienced by the country at large, and striking a tone of resilience, Chrysler managed to offer a message of hope, while at the same time implicitly saying we understand what you’re going through. The music, the visuals, and the pacing of the commercial all add to the message. I’ll admit though that the one thing in the ad that doesn’t work for me is the element of defiant machismo that Clint Eastwood seems to portray toward the end of the spot. Somehow, lines like “America can’t be knocked out with one punch” and “The world’s going to hear the roar of our engines” seem to me to be more like superfluous taunts tacked onto the end of an otherwise inspiring message of unity. (But the fact that this doesn’t appeal to me probably just shows I’m not part of the market that Chrysler’s trying to reach anyway. See the commercial here and judge for yourself.)
Certainly there are many other commercials and marketing campaigns that have had an equal or greater impact in their own way, but these are three that stood out to me as examples of effective emotional marketing.
Can you think of others? Do you agree that inspirational ads always have the most impact, or are there other emotions (humor perhaps?) that you feel people respond to just as well? Feel free to share your comments below, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.
Josh is a full-time student in the Master of International Management program. After graduating from the University of Oregon with a degree in Japanese, he taught English in Tokyo for 3 years, before moving to China and teaching at a university in the city of Zhengzhou. Inspired by his experiences in Japan and China, he was drawn to the MIM program because of its regional focus on Asia, as well as for Portland State University’s reputation as a leader in the field of sustainable business. He is studying Chinese in the MIM program, but tries to keep up his Japanese whenever he can.