Way back in the pre-Internet era, Apple ran a now-infamous commercial called ‘1984’. It ran just once, on the SuperBowl that year. But from all of the buzz the spot created you would have thought it was part of giant, multi-million dollar media buy.
There’s no product in the commercial. Nothing you can buy is shown. There’s no special offer, or information on where to buy whatever IT is. And yet the ad single-handedly set the stage that Apple was a revolutionary alternative to the ‘big brother of computers’ at the time – IBM.[youtube width=”565″ height=”360″]http://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEI4XRfHSJo[/youtube]
A couple years later, Apple went a step further to define their target audience – and create something those people could truly identify with. They started using ‘The computer for the rest of us‘ as a tagline. It was a veiled slap in the face to corporate America, and seeded the idea that Macintosh was the computer for the creative class. ‘Think different‘ was an extension of the same thinking, albeit a bit tamer.
It’s a funny thing. Everyone recognizes the need for business to provide jobs and to keep the economy alive. Yet, there’s also a tendency to think of corporations as big and potentially evil. (When Google began with the insider phrase ‘Don’t be evil’, they surely had notions about how large the company would ultimately become.)
So what does this mean for your business – even if you never expect to be as large as either of those tech brands? The goal is to find powerful, and if possible, emotional ways to empathize with your target. The best advertising always finds a way to make you forget that the brand is in fact… a highly profitable brand.
Back when I was creating Budweiser commercials, we used to say that any script with a white collar worker in it was doomed to fail. Because people don’t really care about someone they feel is already well-off. The heroes of Bud spots were blue collar workers, and more recently, the Clydesdales.
When you think about the key ingredients in a Super Bowl commercial today – either sex, off-the-wall humor, or very sophisticated story-telling – the overarching goal is to entertain you. To make you feel good about the brand itself. About Tide or Coke or Samsung or Mercedes. But also to make you forget that these are in fact, giant corporations that pursue profits mercilessly.
There’s a lesson here: Don’t take yourself too seriously in your marketing. This means your logo and your website, too. It doesn’t work that way. Find ways to inform that make your medicine easy to swallow. Otherwise, the odds are your target audience will just spit it out, and forget all about you.