When does storytelling not tell enough of the story?

  • Better Marketing
  • January 24, 2023

Consumers have always loved a good story. Brands that use storytelling generate some of the most recognizable and effective marketing campaigns. But where do we draw the line between a great story that generates exposure and a more obvious straight to the purpose piece of creative?

Let’s use arguably the biggest showcase of marketing creativity as an example. The marketing hysteria we experienced was just as enthralling as the build-up to the world’s biggest sporting event itself. Millions of dollars spent on seconds of space to capture your attention.

As many watched the stories of two team’s seasons unfold, Budweiser approached the half time ads with a story of their own. The first chapter of this however began sometime before, as news spread across social media and press of a missing puppy. Video posts and tweets provided updates about the disappearance of this cute family member.

People shared the clues across Facebook, Twitter and blogs resulting in it becoming the most talked about Super Bowl ad.

Everyone had prepared themselves for the big conclusion during Budweiser’s half-time TV spot. Social media erupted with a 26 percent share of ad mentions online, compared to 9.8 percent of its nearest rival after showing the ad. Inc. labeled it the most popular Super Bowl ad of all time.

The idea of blending community with technology excited consumers and triggered an emotional response, leading to a high exposure. But does this response make Budweiser’s large success with customer engagement a success or a failure?

Although Budweiser brought us refreshing high quality content which won the hearts of those worldwide, a study suggests that because ‘the campaign scored poorly for personal relevance, it failed to translate into memory and eventually value for the brand, shortcoming on long term memorability.

Unlike Budweiser, the McDonalds ad that was shown in the valuable seconds during the 2015 Super Bowl was perceived very poorly on social media, delivering messages that had previously been seen by showing a family environment in a McDonalds restaurant. The message was quite generic rather than creative. McDonalds rarely strays from this. They understood that they needed to meet objectives and consistently achieve it with a brand-driven message. Though it may come across as boring and not stimulate discussion, the message is clear, and consumers can relate the message with the brand.

Although the high quality of Budweiser’s content won America over, in hindsight, do we really think this campaign will greatly impact beer-buying decisions later? We loved the high-quality content and story. But did this engagement lead us to become a fan of the ad rather than a customer of the brand? The relationship between Budweiser beer and the message of the “Lost Dog” are very detached and the product may be forgotten.

For marketing campaigns, it is necessary to find a balance between high quality content that will reach many and generate exposure and content that advertises the actual product enough to stay relevant and continue to drive sales.

Would your customers prefer to engage with high quality content that deviates from your brand or prefer a consistent message that is brand-focused? The choice is yours.

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