If I asked you to think about your favorite TV commercial or ad campaign that you have seen in the past year, most of us would either point out something that made us a) laugh, b) have very warm feelings toward or c) both.

Recently, Disney tugged on our heartstrings with its commercial “The Little Duck.” And in the U.K., John Lewis has its Christmas ads each year that many people genuinely look forward to seeing (the 2014 “Monty the Penguin” commercial is a tearjerker).

Let me emphasize this point: A television commercial that breaks up a TV program viewers are watching can be something people actually look forward to — when done well.

How many people do you think watch the Super Bowl just because they know the commercials will make them laugh or smile? Any lack of interest they have in American football is completely mitigated because they get to see a kid dressed as Darth Vader using the force on a reasonably priced car.

Among iconic print ads is the “Hello Boys” billboard, bringing big smiles to men in America (until the car crashes) and prompting women to flock to the stores in an attempt to emulate the girl in the ad — whilst likely causing conservatives in the churches of the Midwest to condemn Wonderbra forever.

This is not a new marketing trick. It has been around for a long time, yet so many brands still struggle to trigger the needed reaction to tie positive emotion to a product or service. Using emotive content to steer perception of a brand is one of the most powerful methods of marketing, in my opinion, and if done right, can be more successful than any half-price sale ever could be.

Find A Connection

There is no use in creating an ad concept that the audience will not have a connection with. Understanding the target audience and providing an emotional concept will get people thinking and talking. (“Did you see that adorable Disney ad? It makes me want to take the kids to Disneyland next year!”)

Here are some examples of how brands can connect to their audience:

• Appeal to empowerment. Appeal to a particular gender, culture or even a type of persona (the geek, the fashion conscious, the finance professional, etc.), and illustrate that it is fantastic that they are who they are — “because I’m/you’re/we’re worth it.”

• Identify through the situational. Provide a scenario that the audience can genuinely identify with through empathy and common understanding. For example, how many of us pretended to use the force as a kid, albeit without a remote-start car feature to fool us?

• Find a local tie-in. An easy way to build connections in marketing (like with print ads) can be by targeting colloquial groups and cultures, especially with smaller and more local brands. Based on my experience, the “one of our own” mentality can be a surprisingly effective marketing ploy.

• If in doubt throw in a puppy, a kitten or a small child. You will likely capture most people’s attention, even if you never really say anything. Just remember to throw in the brand at the end — like GoPro, which simply featured a camera and a baby with some dubstep. Genius.


We love a good story. Some of the best emotive marketing campaigns take the audience on an interesting and attention-capturing journey. There can be characters, a plot and typically an emotional ending (e.g., Monty the Penguin’s actual stuffed-toy form; Little Duck meeting his hero, Donald Duck).

The power of stories cannot be understated. If a product or service is more complex, stories can be one of the best ways to break down a misconception or improve understanding — something I see as fairly often in business-to-consumer finance ads or with any form of health insurance ads in the U.S.

It doesn’t have to end with TV either. The “Hello Boys” ad could be perceived as a short story in the context of a woman who may not be as confident in her appearance, but when she puts on a Wonderbra, she is happy to say, “Look how good I look.” (I am sure she was just fine with a traditional brassiere, but the marketing was certainly effective).

Laughter, Love, Joy — Or All Three

Have you ever heard someone say “I hate to laugh” or “I never want to experience loving emotions”? Laughter, joy, love and positivity are parts of life most people enjoy, and the brands we remember tend to be the ones that trigger at least one of these emotional responses.

Any of the examples above are based around triggering these emotions and, as people respond to them, they develop an emotional attachment and investment in the brand. This can improve awareness and perception, the likelihood to purchase, word-of-mouth marketing and, crucially, overall sales.

For the majority of people, emotions define us and how we interact with the world around us, including the products and services we are presented with. So, when making your next brand campaign, think about what kind of ad would make you smile, laugh, feel positive or simply want to tell someone else about.