I remember my elementary teacher sitting in front of our class reading “Where The Red Fern Grows” aloud and crying, struggling to get through the part where Old Dan, then Little Ann die, which resulted in a whole classroom of tearful fourth graders.
The best storytellers evoke emotion—strong emotion–that can relate to everyone at a gut level. The most successful marketers also connect with their audiences through powerful stories that relate specifically to them. The following are examples of marketing campaigns and how memorable, thought-provoking storytelling made them successful.
Nike: Inspiring Customers to Rise Above
Nike has perfected the art of conveying emotion with their marketing. Even their tagline, consisting of three short, simple words—”Just Do It”–captures the drive of their target audience. Nike has produced multiple commercials showing a myriad of emotions that athletes endure when striving for success, with titles to match.
Perhaps Nike’s strongest emotions in its marketing are inspiration and hope. With advertisement titles such as “My Better Is Better,” “Courage,” and “I Can,” Nike aims to inspire customers to believe they can and simply “just do it.” For example, Nike’s “Come Out of Nowhere Ad,” released in 2016, focuses on inspiring athletes to ignore the negative comments they hear and strive for greatness.
These marketing messages deliver straight to the heart of Nike’s target personas. They make even a couch potato believe that wearing Nike shoes (and determination) will transform them into a champion, too!
Smaller sports companies are also following in Nike’s footsteps when it comes to inspiring consumers. Coach Up, a startup that connects athletes with private and group coaching opportunities, recently tapped into Nike’s “inspire” mentality. Their 2015 ad features Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry reading his disappointing 2009 scouting report, and thus, encouraging athletes to rise above criticism and doubt.
Lego: Letting Imaginations Run Wild
Imagination is a key element of a great childhood, and Lego captures these years of wonderment and memories with simple stories seen through the eyes of children. Not only does this marketing evoke emotions in the children watching them (“I wanna do that!”), but it also taps into their parents’ nostalgia (“I remember those simpler times…I wanna share that with them!”).
Instead of making them the blatant focal point, Lego cleverly incorporates the toys subtly into the storyline portraying a comfortable, carefree childhood. The best storytellers constantly have a “pulse” on what their audience cares about and how they respond, but also realize those trigger points can change and evolve over time.
Kleenex: Warming Your Heart with Feel-good Stories
How many times have you heard “bring your Kleenex with…” when referring to an emotional movie, play or event? Kleenex recognized that tissues aren’t just for catching sneezes—they’re also a staple for catching tears. Their marketing portrays simple, heartwarming stories that leave you, well, reaching for the Kleenex.
Kleenex uses emotion in more than one way. Some of the tissue brand’s ads are structured more like a testimonial and focus on a heartwarming story of real-life success and overcoming obstacles, as seen in their “Unlikely Friends” ad.
In addition, Kleenex also taps into nostalgia to get the tears flowing in their “Kiss of Life” advertisement, which focuses on the little everyday acts of love between mothers and their daughters.
Disney: Bringing Dreams and Imagination to Life
No list of the best storytellers would be complete without the master—Disney. This icon of imagination has been pivotal in people’s lives for generations. Whether it’s their films, theme parks, or their marketing, Disney wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for knowing what their audience feels, and more importantly, what their audience wants to feel.
According to HubSpot, Disney’s use of emotion in its “Disney Characters Surprise Shoppers” ad is one of the most shared advertisements of 2015. In the ad, shoppers walking by a screen are greeted by silhouettes of popular Disney characters.
Like Nike, Disneyland’s tagline delivers on something people have been, and always will be longing for…”The Happiest Place On Earth.” Disney relies on emotions of happiness and joy to show that it truly is a magical place–a place where the magic is endless.
Telling Your Own Story
To become one of the best storytellers and share your business’ story, you must identify the "heart" of your company and reach them on an impactful emotional level. Some of the most successful marketing in the 1990s and early 2000s relied on humor and sarcasm. More recent marketing storytelling focuses on inspiration, warmth and friendliness.
The sweet spot is finding an emotion that ties in with your brand and relates to your target audience. For example, there are many different emotions you can target in your advertising, including:
- Happiness (Disney)
- Sadness (Feed The Children)
- Fear/Surprise (American Lung Association)
- Anger/Disgust (ASPCA)
A simple, straightforward message with dynamic, compelling visuals will make your customers want to connect with your story. And connecting with, holding your audience and getting them to engage is the whole goal of marketing, right?
“Emotions don’t hinder decisions. They constitute the foundation on which they’re made!”
— Douglas Van Praet, author of Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) Marketing