Watch television for a couple of hours this evening and, along with the entertainment of your choice, you’re also going to be exposed to a large array of commercials. Many of these will be instantly forgettable: it doesn’t matter how many times you see them you probably don’t remember them or what brand they’re trying to sell. Others, however, will catch your imagination and pull on your emotions, to such an extent that you may find yourself remembering them and even sharing and talking about them with others later in the day.
But what is it that makes the difference between a boring ad and an exciting and interesting one? How does one brand stick in your mind when their all-too-similar competitor is instantly forgettable? For most products, it's the branding.
Consider a bottle of perfume or aftershave, an item that performs the relatively basic and unexciting task of making sure you smell good. Each of the hundreds of different brands of perfume and aftershave performs exactly the same function, and in reality most of them could be exchanged for another with little discernible difference made to your life.
And yet many customers have their favorite type of perfume and stick to it religiously, refusing to use others that may perform exactly the same task for a cheaper price. This is illogical of course – if all you want is the basic function of a product that makes you smell nice you’d go for the cheapest every time to save money. So why don’t consumers do this?
The answer, of course, is branding – the message of each brand of perfume and aftershave is designed to make you feel something: to feel more masculine, more feminine, sportier, richer, younger, sexier or even thinner. Most of these aren’t functional benefits – buying an expensive aftershave won’t make you richer (quite the opposite!), but it might make you feel that way.
It is through this emotional connection that brands can successfully connect with customers. You can see a lot of great examples of this in the winners’ roll of this year’s Cannes Lions awards. Many of the last year’s most successful branding campaigns succeeded because of the emotions they sparked in those watching them.
One of my favorite example from this year was British retailer John Lewis’s 2015 Christmas campaign about Monty the Penguin (yes, it's only a Silver one but I became father recently...).
The 2-minute advert told the story of a boy, Sam, and his penguin, Monty. The advert shows the fun and adventures they have – but something is missing: Monty is lonely as he is the only penguin and wishes he could have a friend. On Christmas Day Sam has got a special gift for Monty; he provides him with a friend, Mable, and the animators do a brilliant job of showing the love at first sight between Monty and Mable. It’s a sweet story, and one that has many people watching it for the first time welling up at the emotions involved. The advert ties into the shops campaign brilliantly – people want to buy something special for their loved one and John Lewis shows that it understands that and wants to help.
So don't wait Christmas to make your customers feeling something when they think of you!