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Tide Won the Super Bowl -- for advertising.

The Recipe for Ads that Stick

As the people of Philadelphia take to the streets today for the Super Bowl parade, it’s a fun exercise to think back on the commercials that aired on Super Bowl Sunday. Do you remember them?

It hasn’t even been a week, but if I had to guess, most of you would come up with nothing. You may remember a brand or two, but the message of the commercial? The only commercial I’d expect to hear a worthwhile recap of is the Tide commercial.

Why Tide and not another brand?

For starters, the message was clear and simple (while capitalizing on the charm and popularity of Stranger Thing‘s David Harbor). Even more importantly, the ad itself left its audience thinking well beyond the Super Bowl spot. I kept wondering if the next ad I saw would be a #TideAd.

INC recently asked me to put together some thoughts on Super Bowl ads that have resonated throughout the ages, and I can’t help but think back to Apple’s 1984 Super Bowl spot. Apple changed the game that year by embodying a large part of what we strive for today with Transformational Marketing.

Apple’s “why” is simple and clear: think different. The ad works not because it says, “we are a company that thinks differently, buy from us!” Think about it: the ad doesn’t even show an image of the product. Instead, they created a narrative around a hero who shatters the status quo, connecting back to Apple’s brand story of shattering expectations to make people’s lives better.

Like Apple’s Super Bowl hit, effective ads must clearly align with the brand’s “why” story or else they will fall flat. If you want to truly stand out from the noise, you have to deeply understand your target viewer. The best ads consider exactly how they want a viewer to think, feel, and ultimately act, and they deliver.

Below are three great examples of ads that cut through the noise by getting people to think, feel, and act.

Think: Misereor and Social Swipe

In today’s attention-driven economy, getting someone to think about your brand beyond six seconds is no easy task. Just like the Tide ad mentioned above, an ad that can keep you thinking about your brand did its job.

I mention Misereor in my upcoming book, but their Social Swipe campaign did a wonderful job of successfully “cutting” through the noise to make an impact with passers-by in a train station.

The interactive advertisement meant people could donate money by swiping their card through a billboard. When the card was swiped, a display gave the illusion that they were cutting free the bound hands of an imprisoned Filipino child. In the other version, the donors could use their credit card to cut a slice of bread from a loaf to feed a family in need.

The Misereor campaign introduced consumers to a problem that they otherwise wouldn’t have thought about during their daily activities, and the effect is long lasting.

Feel: Proctor & Gamble and #BecauseOfMoms 

Has an ad ever left you on the verge of tears because you’re laughing so hard? Or maybe the ad hit a more sentimental note?

Advertisers love to tug on our heartstrings. We as human beings are wired to be emotional. Brands use this to create closer connections with their audience, but it’s tricky to pull off correctly. If the emotion evoking story doesn’t connect with your brand, your chance of truly making an impact is slim to none.

A great example of how to pull this off right came from the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. P&G teamed up with Wieden + Kennedy for the #BecauseOfMoms campaign.

After watching the ad, you can immediately see the brilliance of the advertisement. Sure, it was timely given the use of winter athletes, but the brilliance is how they targeted a specific audience (moms) and made them the hero in a way that created an emotional connection.

Act: #ShareACoke and Kraft Family

What good is an advertisement if it doesn’t lead to some other result?

Even if you’re running an awareness campaign, you’re raising awareness for a reason (at least we hope). Something every marketer should be thinking about when they create an ad or launch a full campaign is how do they want someone to act.

If you respond with a snarky, “to get them to buy,” I challenge you to rethink that statement. While some ads are best served to drive that final conversion, this thinking is what drives transactional marketing.

“Listen to me! Buy This!”

These interruptive tactics don’t consider how people truly want to experience a brand.

The Share a Coke Campaign was a huge hit for the brand. The brand relied heavily on consumers uploading pictures of themselves with their names on the Coke bottles. They got their customers to do the advertising for them. People loved having a product made for just them, and as a result, this campaign attributed a 2% increase in revenue that same year.

People Pose with their Cokes During the #ShareACoke Marketing Campaign

Getting users to act as ambassadors for your brand is a great goal to strive for, but it’s not easy to pull off. In this article for Yahoo Finance, I talked about the benefits of user-generated content, in particular Kraft’s entry into the Super Bowl Advertising arena. Kraft asked its customers to submit pictures of “how they family” and then crafted (no pun intended) the images into a narrative commercial that captured the essence of its family-focused brand and literally made its customers the star of the show.

I had my concerns that this would end up being a messy, cheesy (okay, pun intended) collage, but Kraft did an excellent job turning the customer-submitted photos into a clear and concise message that opened the brand up for an expanded, integrated campaign with long-term engagement.

When you create ads that allow your customers to not just relate to your brand but see themselves within your brand, aligning their values with your brand values, it becomes easier for customers to embed your brand into their lives. Read more of my favorite Super Bowl ads of the ages over at INC.

Traditional marketing is broken. These companies are taking steps to transform their brands using the kind of marketing that inspires its customers to become brand advocates. In my new book, “Marketing, Interrupted,” I talk about what good brand strategy looks like when you use this Transformational Marketing approach. I’ve interviewed and researched marketers, thought leaders, brands, and organizations that are interrupting “marketing as usual,” maybe even going a little crazy — and succeeding. If you’re interested in learning more about transformational marketing, you can order your copy of “Marketing, Interrupted”  by clicking the button below.

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