Sometimes, a story sells a product.

For a video to stand out in today’s global, mobile world, it needs to resonate. It needs to be about more than the product. It needs to address a problem, offer a solution, convey an emotion, and communicate a larger vision. Just ask author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, creator of The Little Prince. He may not have realized it at the time, but he summed up the idea of product marketing quite beautifully (Anderson, 2015):

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work. Teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

In other words, let the story do the selling. Here are three commercials in which a brand successfully pitches a product, without actually showing it:

#1: Purple Feather – “The Power of Words”

The Plot: Running at 1:48, this commercial is a well-executed, emotional story that conveys the power of words. The video is about a blind man begging with a sign that reads, “I’m blind. Please help.” The man is largely ignored until one day, someone stops, picks up his sign, adds a few words, and carries on. From that point, on the blind man’s cup fills easily with money. What’s changed? The deft copywriter had edited the sign to read: “It’s a beautiful day. And I can’t see it.”

The Strategy: Based in Glasgow, Purple Feather is an online content and copywriting agency that set out to convey one key message with their video: Words matter. In fact, they can change everything.

The Positioning: Change your words. Change your world.

#2: Special K – “More Than a Number”

The Plot: The commercial shows a number of different women entering a department store called “Rethink Your Jeans.” As they browse the racks looking for jeans to try on, they notice that there aren’t any sizes marked on the labels. A woman who works at the store emerges asking if she can measure a female shopper. As she wraps the measuring tape around the shopper’s waist she remarks: “You are radiant.” Another woman adds: “Not seeing the number is so freeing!”

The Strategy: In this commercial, Special K is giving real women a way to feel confident without feeling overwhelmed by the idea of weight loss and shopping for new clothes. The brand makes a connection with consumers and gives them a chance to find joy in what otherwise could be a discouraging activity. It’s also important to note that while most Kellogg brands are consumed about equally by men and women, Special K tilts to women, who represent about 65 percent of its consumers and, as primary shoppers in households, even more of its purchasers (Newman, 2010).

The Positioning: Don’t let the size of your jeans measure your worth.

#3: Dodge Ram – “God Made a Farmer”

The Plot: This two-minute ad from the 2013 Super Bowl tells a moving story about the life of a farmer. It features a simple slideshow of photographs accompanied by a stirring tribute to America’s farmers that featured the recurring phrase, “So God made a farmer.” What’s most memorable, however, is the commercial’s scratchy audio narration — which is taken directly from a speech given by radio personality Paul Harvey at the 1978 National Future Farmers of America Convention.

The Strategy: Dodge may not be a farming company, but it has used this commercial to effectively align the Ram truck with the values of the American Heartland. The commercial’s message shows that Ram is proud to support every generation of the nation’s farmers—young and old.

The Positioning: To the farmer in all of us.

Questions for you:

What do you think of putting the product in the backseat?

Can you recall any recent commercials in which a story shines enough to do the selling?



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