Pass the Tissues

Pass the Tissues

When was the last time you were moved to tears? Well, if you’ve watched any television lately it probably wasn’t very long ago. It seems more and more marketers are setting out to make us cry.

This so-called “sadvertising” engages us with tear-jerking tales of triumph after a struggle, outright tragedy, unlikely friendships, or tender coming-of-age moments. We see heartrending ads for beer, beauty products, household cleaning products, search engines, insurance, and more.

It’s worth pointing out that there’s nothing inherently emotional about these brands or products. I love beer as much as the next person, but there’s nothing intrinsically moving about itóor shower cleaner, for that matter. These marketers have created stories and built emotions around their brands. And you can do this too.


A Case for Authenticity

Keep in mind emotions alone won’t inspire your base over the long term. Your stories have to be real, authentic, and believable. They also have to be in line with the rest of your branding and true to what your organization has to offer. The last thing you want to do is create a memorable story without people remembering who created it.


The Dear Sophie Ad

Consider Google’s “Dear Sophie” ad, which tells the tale of young Sophie growing up through the emails her father sends her over Gmail since the day she was born. The Google ad tells an emotionally engaging story without ever losing site of its job: to promote Google’s capabilities.

Throughout the heartwarming tale viewers see all the possibilities offered by Google-search, photographs, videos, maps, Gmail, and more. At the end, you feel touched by this family relationship, but you also feel inspired by the technology. You might even adopt some of the ideas for your own life, i.e. you’ll start using Google more frequently and for more functions. Mission accomplished, Google.


Too Sweet for Your Taste?

By contrast, if you tell an overly emotional story that’s not aligned with your brand-perhaps in an attempt to get more clicks, shares, and likesóyour audience will likely smell a rat. At the very least, they’re not likely to buy. At the worst, you’ll turn them off of your brand for good. (You’re also likely to attract scorn and ridicule from the likes of Stephen Colbert.)

Good sadvertising works because it engages our empathic brain and our inherent need to connect with other humans. It’s also Marketing 101 to sell what a product does for people, rather than sell the product itself.

If a sad story works for your brand, go with it. If another gripping emotion is more aligned with your organization, that’s great too. Happiness and humor can connect your organization to your membership in meaningful ways. The idea is to engage emotionally to inspire your base, forge connections, and incite action.

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