It's no secret that emotionally resonant creative is the key ingredient in advertising. Always has been, always will be. But these days a strong emotional connection is also one of the best ways for advertisers to break through the clutter and make the most of earned media. Emotional connections, after all, are why we consume media. We watch movies that lift up our spirits and tickle our funny bones. We watch television that horrifies, shocks, and -- hopefully -- gets us buzzing about what we just saw. And from time to time, we see advertisements that strike us on such a gut level that they cut through the noise and lodge their message deep inside our minds.
Of course, most media fail to connect on an emotional level. You've certainly forgotten more movies than you remember. A handful of TV shows endure, but most are forgettable. And when it comes to ads, the vast majority of them are entirely disposable. Making that emotional connection with the largest possible audience isn't easy. In fact, it's incredibly hard, which is exactly why we've decided to showcase some of the best emotional advertising we've seen online lately.
Good news travels fast, which is why brands that can tap into excitement stand a good chance of spreading their message far and wide.
Mike's Hard Lemonade
Why it works: Hitting 1 million Facebook fans is certainly cause for celebration at most brands. But what makes this campaign effective is that Mike's (Paul's) Hard Lemonade went big on the payoff by temporally changing the brand's name. Like Paul -- aka the 1 millionth Facebook fan -- said when he found out about the name change, "that's awesome!" Well, it is kind of awesome, which is why it's a campaign worth getting excited about.
Maybe we're all a little jaded. When you consider just how much media we all consume on a daily basis, it isn't all that easy to surprise us. But if a brand can break through our collective malaise, good things will happen.
Why it works: The typical campaign for a feminine hygiene product uses soft light, dull music, exterior locations (usually a meadow or the beach), and an actress who's at least a decade past the age when most women are likely to use their first feminine hygiene product. In other words, we have an expectation for a feminine hygiene ad, and it isn't all that good, honest, or even on target for the key demographic. Then there's this Hello Flo ad. Sure, it's really funny, and humor is a big part of why this ad works. But the brand is also playing off our sense of surprise because the execution is so wildly different (in a very good way) from everything else we've seen in the category.
Emotions are incredibly powerful, but some emotions are more powerful than others. Consider wonder, which is defined as "a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable."
Naturally, wonder can be an incredibly hard emotion for brands to tap into, but when they do, the results are truly powerful.
Why it works: Hiring documentarian Errol Morris is a good start for any video campaign. But the reason why this video works to create a sense of wonder is that it starts with an honest and universal question: Why bring a child into this world? Then it turns to real people for unvarnished answers.
Traditionally, advertisers have had an aversion to sadness. After all, it's an emotion that doesn't exactly lend itself to a commercial action. That might be changing, at least according to writer Rae Ann Fera, who documented the rise of "sad-vertising" in an article for Fast Company.
Why it works: There's a reason the classic Disney films often feature children being separated from their parents. Plain and simple, that kind of content is almost guaranteed to hit any viewer on a deep emotional level. It's also the exact same reason this animated PETA short works so well. And hey, it doesn't hurt that the soundtrack is from Morrissey, who wrote the book on emo music.
Satisfaction might be one of the best emotions any of us can feel. After all, it's that rare emotional state that leaves us wanting absolutely nothing else, which is probably why satisfaction can be so elusive. But when an ad ends on a satisfactory note, there's just no getting around the fact that its message is going to stay with you for quite a while.
Why it works: There are a range of emotions at work in this two-minute video. But while many viewers likely start with a sense of sadness, the video resonates because it chronicles Nico Calabria's awe-inspiring journey as we see a one-legged boy learn to stand, walk, and eventually score a goal. And it's because of that journey that we feel so satisfied at the end.
However, there are two moments where we see the brand. The first is a Powerade bottle that appears as a quick product placement near the end of the story. The second is the Powerade logo at the very end of the video. Both feel a bit ham-fisted, especially the product placement, which takes you out of the story at a critical moment. Obviously, we know it's an ad, but Powerade would've been better off with a softer sell -- one in which the brand could have just presented us with such a satisfying story.
Confidence is actually a popular emotion for brands to tap into because confidence is so attractive. But appealing to confidence on a regular basis isn't the same thing as actually connecting on an emotional level. Put another way, the widespread use of confidence in advertising means that the bar for success is set that much higher.
Why it works: Historically, dads haven't gotten a lot of credit for the touchy feely parenting stuff. But fatherhood is changing, and this campaign works because it speaks to a new understanding of male household roles. Sure, it's heartwarming to see the impact dads have on their kids, but the real emotional takeaway from this video is that it gives the dads in the audience a sense of confidence because the creative speaks to a positive image of fatherhood that doesn't get much play in our media.
Nostalgia isn't quite an emotion, but it's known to provoke a positive emotional response, which is why a number of brands attempt to create a feeling of nostalgia in their ads, whether they're repurposing classic creative or giving their newest campaigns a throwback feel.
Why it works: Life was probably better at Microsoft in the '90s. Bill Gates was still running the show, Apple was in the dumps, and the press covered a new Windows launch like it was, well, a new iPhone. Anyway, that was then and this is now. But in this clever two-minute ad, Microsoft's quick recap of '90s technology and culture evokes that powerful feeling of nostalgia, at least if you're old enough to remember some of the items featured in the video. But what makes the ad work is that it uses nostalgia to summon one positive memory after another. In other words, it puts you in a good mood. But it does so by throwing subtlety at some of today's more annoying trends. And once you're fully convinced that life might have been better in '90s -- back when Microsoft was king -- they hit you with the real message to check out the company's new Internet Explorer. That's the right time to bring up a new browser with an old name, since it's been a while since we thought fondly of Explorer.
Michael Estrin is a freelance writer.
"Masked" image via Shutterstock.