Why The Best Brands Are Those That Don’t Sell You Anything

Dear brands, I know your goal in life is to make money, but could you please try being less obvious about it?

 

Sincerely,

A consumer tired of disruptive ads

 

It’s a jungle out there. Everybody wants to make money, everybody tries to get your attention, everybody throws their products at you, assuming that if they are loud enough, you’ll catch them. But here is the thing—what these brands forget is that when you shout, people hear your voice, but don’t listen to your words.The message is lost in between. And the more they try to shove their products in your face, the quicker you run away from them.

50 SHADES OF BAD ADS

For me,there are three categories of bad ads: the boring ones, the hilariously bad ones, and the offensive ones. Take, for instance, a real-life example of me watching home cooking videos. Suddenly, a fast food ad pops up, showing nothing but huge, succulent burgers. How dare you? Skipping in 5…4…3…2…1. It was boring all right, although, to be fair, an ad featuring nothing but calorie bombs,while I am trying to stay healthy, is still better than the offensive one where they used a boy’s dead father to suggest that the only thing he had in common with his dad who, apparently, was great at everything while the boy isn’t, is his love for burgers. Wow, the two were so much alike! As for hilariously bad ones, the ones I “enjoy” the most are those promoting the exact opposite thing I’m watching. I can recall watching a review rightfully panning a movie, while a paid ad of an influencer shilling that very movie played before the video. Do these people realize that the more aggressive they are in their marketing, the less credible they look?  

IT’S NOT WHAT YOU SAY, BUT HOW YOU SAY IT

Most of the time, ads are a nuisance. You navigate through content you are interested in,only to get an ad that not only has absolutely no connection to whatever you’re watching but is conveying one single message: BUY OUR PRODUCTS! And yes, every single brand has this goal in mind. However, the difference between a good ad and a bad ad is that a bad ad will shout at you to buy, while a good ad will tell you a story so engaging, that you’ll want to buy whatever they’re selling.So, in a way, the best ads are those that don’t tell you they want your money.They enrich the consumer experience by being thoughtful, clever, funny,emotional. The fact that you know that they want to sell you something—because of course they do—doesn’t invalidate their message. The best ads ignite a conversation. You know an ad succeeds when you’re not even in their target demographic, but you still listen to what they have to say.

THE BEST OF THE BEST

Take, for instance, Gillette’s ad against toxic masculinity.There are men who tell women they are too sensitive, too irrational, that they have to know their place in the world—and that place is not at their same level. That women are snowflakes, too weak to be in charge and not assertive enough to be allowed to speak up. Those are the same men who felt offended by an ad which was simply telling them to be the best version of themselves they can be. That it’s not enough not to be an abuser, but that you also have to call abuse out when you see it, because toxic masculinity thrives on other men’s acceptance. “Boys will be boys” should never be a free pass to excuse hurtful behaviour. But the point is, when ads like this one say that men need to be better, they aren’t saying that there is a problem with EVERY SINGLE MAN,but they highlight that it’s a widespread issue with men at the centre of it. The ad struck a chord with everybody. Men who loved Gillette’s boldness in exposing behaviours that society enables. Men who hated it because for some reason, they felt attacked, so they were demanding a similar ad against women too. Women who were surprised to see a male-oriented company calling their peers out. Everybody had an opinion on it.

 

Nike’s DreamCrazy and Dream Crazier are two other examples of ads that at no point tell you to buy shoes or other Nike apparel. They tell you stories of being successful against all odds. That it’s okay to have crazy dreams and fight for them. That no disability can stop you on your path to glory. That you can’t just be better than someone else, but the best ever. That it’s okay to show emotion, fight for equal opportunity, and succeed in male-dominated sports, no matter how much they tell you that you are crazy and delusional. And just like the Gillette one, the views on these ads are polarising. But like them or hate them, they have the power to make people talk about them, and that’s where their brilliance lies.

 

But not all ads need to tell a powerful story to be impactful. Take KFC, for instance. Yes,back to the fast food chains. To me, nothing is more endearing than self-depreciating humour, and that’s exactly what KFC managed to do, when they were on the brink of a PR disaster in the UK and Ireland, having to close hundreds of stores due to…chicken shortage. KFC never took themselves too seriously, but this crisis was particularly challenging. They knew they had to address it in away that would be sincere and definitely not self-victimising. Basically, they had to admit they f**ked up. Which is exactly what they did. And so, the FCK ad was born! It’s funny, simple, and effective. It worked because they didn’t try to shift the blame or find excuses; instead, they offered a genuine, funny apology, promising to avoid ever running out of chicken again.

UNDERSTANDING YOUR TARGET DEMOGRAPHIC

Another reason some brands fail is because they don’t understand their own demographic they want to turn into customers. If you are a brand trying to help students find jobs, you shouldn’t use a middle-aged influencer for your ads, because there is a dissonance between who is saying to whom. If you want to speak their own“language”, use someone they can relate to, like a fellow student. Because if I am watching an ad featuring someone my age, I will go, “I’m impressed! This brand really speaks to me and understands the struggles I go through at my age.” For a brand to walk that extra mile gives them more credibility, because instead of trying to sell a product quickly, they put the consumer’s needs first.

 

So there you have it. Once companies start to put the customers over the profits and become more like storytellers than sellers, that’s when they’ll strike gold and raise their brand awareness.

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