99% of Brands Get This Wrong

99% of Brands Get This Wrong

You want to market your product, service or brand, so you do what seems intuitive: make a short list of all the benefits your product could have to your ideal customer and blast them with specifics.

You see this all the time in advertising.

You’re watching a football game and inevitably, a commercial for a paper towel company comes on. They hit you right away with their brand and begin to inundate you with benefits.

‘Our paper towels easily absorb liquid spills.’

Everyone does this.

‘Our stain remover immediately cleans your spots, leaving your product shiny new!’
‘Our toothpaste kills 99.9% of bacteria’.
‘Our detergent thoroughly cleans your clothes, leaving them smelling fresh.’

Of course, this is all said in a high-pitched voice, spoken with enthusiasm as if the spokesperson just won the lottery.

Some go a step further and explain why their product is superior to the competition.

‘Our batteries last 30% longer than other leading brands.’
‘Our paper towel are two times more absorbent than other ordinary brands.’1

This strategy is petty and should be avoided like the plague. As the great adage goes, ‘winners are focused on winning, whereas losers are focused on other winners.’
If one is making ads bringing down their competition instead of focusing on what matters – telling a captivating story – they’re going to lose. (In fact, they’re just bringing more awareness to their competitors!)

Unfortunately, you’ve been bombarded with these endorsements your entire life.

The problem is that nobody cares. About their paper towels, batteries, or detergent. If you think about the emotional state of someone consuming a piece of content today (most likely, scrolling through their feed), they absolutely give zero cares about you or your product.

They want escapism, to be entertained, or inspired. If we want to market to someone in the modern world, we need to begin by providing something of value to them, not indoctrinating them with facts and statistics about our products.

In short, the way we’re being marketed to doesn’t influence our behavior.

We buy things from brands and people we trust, and trust is gained by appealing to our emotion. The way we’re being sold to however, are ads ridden with facts, thereby appealing to our logical mind.

When I took a public speaking class at Chapman University, the legendary Professor Dockett taught us was how to connect with others.

We studied Aristotle’s Rhetoric and the use of pathos, ethos and logos as modes of communication.

‘Most speakers,’ he said, ‘appeal to your logos,’ the Greek word from which ‘logic’ was derived. In other words, they present rational arguments to make their case. This is what you see happening over and over in marketing today. Brands touting how their product is best.

‘But great communicators appeal to your pathos,’ your emotional control center which drives behavior. This is an exponentially better approach, and it’s what the best companies are doing.

The problem with marketing today is most brands market to our logos, and we as consumers, simply don’t care.

Sure, the paper towels may clean more stains – that’s if you even believe them in the first place – but that won’t cause you to buy their brand.

We make decisions based largely on emotion.2 We have to feel moved, inspired, connected or touched in some way to compel us to buy. Even more so if one when changing an existing behavior, say from switching from one brand of beer to another.

The recent ad with Dwyane Wade involving Budweiser is a perfect example of marketing done right. It begins with epic shots of Wade playing basketball, and him exchanging his jersey with other legendary players.

Suddenly the music changes, turns solemn, and five people come onto an empty basketball court to surprise him with jerseys of their own, people whose lives he has touched in some way.

Their stories are compelling – a woman is grateful to Wade’s generosity in paying her college tuition, and honors him with her graduation gown. Another gives him the last basketball jersey her son wore during his championship game before he was killed in a shooting.

Just when you can’t hold back the tears, Wade’s mother takes center court and shares her compelling story of how she gained the strength to get clean, to which she credits her sons support.

You’re crying by the end.

The commercial, if you can even call it that, is 3:59 seconds. It’s a story, and a captivating one. You have no idea you’re being marketed to, and that’s precisely the point.

The Budweiser logo along with the campaign slogan ‘This Bud’s for 3’ (which represents Wade’s jersey number) is shown at 3:55 and remains on the screen for 4 seconds.

That’s it. And it’s absolutely epic.

Budweiser doesn’t ask for anything. They don’t say, ‘buy our beer,’ and they don’t talk about why Budweiser tastes better than Heineken.

They tell you a story about a hero, and when you’re at your emotional peak, they show you the logo, causing you to associate a positive emotion with their brand.3

Subconsciously, this influences behavior, and the next time you’re in the liquor store debating what beer to buy, you’ll remember Dwyane Wade’s act of kindness. You’ll feel compassion for the poor girl’s son who was shot, and inspiration for the woman who has a bright future thanks to Wade’s generosity. And, wanting to be a little bit more like your hero, you’ll buy the beer he drinks. A bud.

The result?

Budweiser revenue skyrockets. In fact, Vayner Media (the company responsible for the ad) CEO Gary Vaynerchuck reported in a recent podcast that they noticed an increase in sales as a result of this campaign.4

We don’t buy things for what they are, but rather how they make us feel. I’m not discounting the product; it has to be great. We also love our Nike’s because they are amazing, but so are Reebok’s. What Nike gives us that other brands don’t, is it makes us feel like an athlete, part of a tribe, and motivates us to be our best.

Most shoe companies are merely selling us shoes. Nike is selling us the potential to be our best self.

Apple computers are unlocking our creative spirit, allowing us to reach our potential and make a positive impact in the world. Of course, their iPads are great, but so too are the Microsoft Surface. But Microsoft is selling us a tablet, and Apple is selling us a dream.

This is what’s required of us in today’s competitive environment, where people have choice over where they put their attention.

We no longer live in a world where people are glued to their TV’s and forced to watch self-aggrandizing ads.

We can ‘change the channel’ in an instant with a simple swipe or touch, which means the only way we’re going to capture anyone’s attention is to make something compelling that actually provides value to others.

Value comes in many forms. It can be informative and solve a deep pain point someone has, it could be a form of escapism by providing laughter, or in the case of Budweiser, inspiring us to be better.

Before you produce another ad, write your sales copy or pass out your flyers, think about what it is you’re actually selling.

Then, find a captivating story that makes an emotional connection with your audience. Remember, it doesn’t have to be at all related to your product. (What do basketball and Dwyane Wade have to do with beer?)

Instead, it has to put your audience in a heightened emotional state. This builds trust and makes them love you. Then, you remind them of your brand.

You don’t talk about your product. You don’t make them an offer. And you sure as hell don’t mention the competition.

Tell them a story, a great one. Because in the end, great marketing really isn’t about you, your brand or even about marketing at all. It’s about your customer and how you make them feel about themselves.


1. Bounty Brand (2018) – ‘Bounty Paper Towels Commercial’. Published Online at YouTube.com. Retrieved from: ‘https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3qtndbZh3s’

2. Jennifer S. Lerner (2014) – ‘Emotion and Decision Making’. Published Online at Scholar.Harvard.edu. Retrieved from:
‘https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/jenniferlerner/files/annual_review_manuscript_june_16_final.final_.pdf’ [Online Resource]

3. Youn-Kyung Kim & Pauline Sullivan (2019) – ‘Emotional branding speaks to consumers’ heart: the case of fashion brands’. Published online at: link.springer.com.
Retrieved From: ‘https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s40691-018-0164-y’ [Online Resources]

4. Gary Vaynerchuk (2019) – ’15 Minutes of How to Make Content at Scale’. Published online at: Apple Podcasts. Retrieved from:
scale/id928159684?i=1000448282427’ [Online Resource]

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