When brands just want to be loved

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Advertisers generally either talk about the details of what they want us to buy, or invest in making themselves a brand to which we will be loyal.

Despite the headline (purely to get your attention) I’m not a big fan of the word ‘love’ when talking about our feelings towards brands. Personally, I reserve my love for my family, my closest friends and blue cheese. But it is certainly true that many of us develop a strong loyalty for some brands that can sometimes be more intangible than logic would suggest.

Brand loyalty is a valuable commodity. Just look at the power that Apple has engineered over its short life. In the SME environment, we don’t always have the budget for both brand and product-based advertising, but it has been interesting me lately how many big brand TV ads in particular are focusing on really winning our hearts.

One of our telecommunications companies wants to relate itself to New Zealand’s proficiency at punching above its weight – that a little country can do big things. They’re not selling us phones or offering us cheaper broadband, they’re trying to make us feel good about them. Beautiful ad, cute voice but, sorry, you wouldn’t have been the first company that came to mind if someone had described that concept to me.

Another beautiful work-of-art currently on our screens is for one of our leading NZ-owned banks, which appears to be a bit of a brand re-launch. We follow our heroine from childhood piano lessons, through uni, her first pash, motherhood and beyond. Just as we are beside her on her journey through the years, this bank is there too, whatever life brings. Yes, that I can believe.

Another advertiser hopes that pulling on our heart strings about the kid and her Dad having swimming lessons will have us hunting out the hoki in the freezer aisle. Endearing maybe, but I suspect not so enduring.

An interesting late twist as I was finalising this column was an ad I saw for a pizza. Perhaps a bit of a dig at the emotive story-telling trend, the voice-over tells me that they were planning ad with a story but decided to concentrate on showing us each of the mouth-watering ingredients of this signature pizza instead. A clever trick to get us remember that particular pizza next time we can’t be bothered to cook? Or the advertising industry taking the mickey out of itself? Perhaps both – I do hope so.

You’ll often find that advertisers will leverage these top-level brand ads very soon afterwards with tactical messages – the ones that are about particular products or services. Sometimes they might follow the same themes, but not always. If the brand ad has done its job, they know that we’ll be more inclined to buy if we feel good about them, and that’s where the brand-focused investment pays off. Our bank that follows us through life’s “Changes” hopes to plant those warm and fuzzies in your memory for when you next need a home loan.

The placement of these more emotive ads is largely focused on TV (and probably cinema, and on the OnDemand platforms) for a number of reasons. One reason is that, yes, some people do still watch TV. Another is that commercials use more of the senses that generate those emotional connections, particularly over more than just a few seconds. Good media planning means they’re also placed in programmes that have some kind of synergy with the brand, appealing to similar target audiences.
These often stunning ads (which New Zealand does so well, by the way) reach out to us with language and human interaction, beautiful scenes, high production values, music that lifts us… am I sounding like I’m introducing a movie nominee at the Oscars?

The combined impact of these aspects is unlikely to be as successful just in a few square pixels on a Faceboook ad, for example, unless you’ve already seen the longer version and it serves to remind and reinforce the feelings you had.

I know – most of us reading this don’t have the budget luxury to invest heavily in brand-building advertising on the scale that the big TV spenders do. But that doesn’t mean the same brand building concepts can’t apply in print or online advertising, it is just a different creative approach backed up by a different media strategy.

We can all look for opportunities to tell our story to the hearts as well as the heads of our potential customers. As we build loyalty, our brands too will grow. As our favourite airline reminds us, there’s always tomorrow.

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Vicki Jones

Vicki Jones is director of Dugmore Jones, Hamilton-based marketing management consultancy. Email vicki@dugmorejones.co.nz

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