In a year of lackluster Super Bowl ads, one brand that stood out was a spot for antioxidant infusion drink Bai Brands, recently acquired by Dr. Pepper Snapple Group. The ad featured Christopher Walken reciting the lyrics for the 2000 N’SYNC hit “Bye Bye Bye,” accompanied by N’SYNC veteran Justin Timberlake looking on quizzically. The commercial combined humor with nostalgia to appeal to multiple demographics, targeting both Generation X audiences old enough to remember Walken in his prime and Millennial viewers who grew up when N’SYNC was at the top of the charts. The ad was a surprise sleeper hit, winning this year’s fan favorite vote.
This illustrates that emotional appeal can have a major impact on a brand’s success or failure at attracting customers and maintaining their loyalty. Here are some case studies in successful emotional branding that business leaders can emulate to acquire and maintain customers.
Old Navy: The Power of Nostalgia
A classic branding success story is Gap brand Old Navy. In 2008, new Old Navy president Tom Wyatt came in aiming to revitalize the brand. Seeking to attracting more customers between the ages of 25 and 35 — one of the firm’s demographic sweet spots — Old Navy developed a profile of an ideal customer named “Jenny,” one of the most popular names for women born in 1979.
To appeal to its target age group, Old Navy aired a series of commercials with recognizable celebrities from the 1980s. These included The Jeffersons, Morgan Fairchild, Mr. T and members from the Crews of Star Trek and Beverly Hills 90210. More recently, Old Navy has revisited this marketing strategy with ads featuring 80s celebrities such as Chevy Chase, Saturday Night Live’s Superfans and the Superfans’ idol, Bears Coach Mike Ditka. By tapping into 80s nostalgia, Old Navy’s ads have aimed to appeal to the emotions associated with 80s TV viewing, giving its brand a positive emotional association for its target age group.
Dove: Repackaging Emotional Associations
In 2004, Unilever brand Dove conceived the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, which promoted the company’s products by changing the emotions associated with personal care and beauty products. Research had shown that only 2 percent of women considered themselves beautiful. Dove’s executives saw an opportunity here to distinguish its brand by starting a new conversation about the definition of true beauty.
An initial wave of ads posted pictures of models on billboards asking passers-by to vote whether they were beautiful or not. The ads sparked discussion and controversy, which boosted Dove’s sales. Capitalizing on this momentum, Dove has run a series of follow-up campaigns which focus on questioning stereotypical definitions of beauty and encouraging women to feel self-esteem based on their own qualities rather than their conformity with stereotypes. With this focus, Dove has repackaged the emotions associated with its products, connecting its brand with feelings of self-esteem.
Amway: The Appeal of Company Values
Another way brands can connect with consumer emotions is by appealing to values shared by the company’s target market. A good example of this is Amway’s recent social media marketing. Since 1959, Amway has been helping people lead more successful lives by starting their own businesses. By becoming an Amway franchise owner, anyone can live the American dream of being a successful business owner, while picking up valuable sales skills that can be applied to other areas of their life.
To communicate its benefits to today’s audience, Amway has increased its social media presence, with content that emphasizes the company’s values and how those values benefit people who sell Amway. For instance, Amway’s Facebook page has recently featured a series of videos on “Amway Values” that each highlight one of the company’s core values, dramatized through archival recordings of speeches from Amway co-founder Richard DeVos played over video of successful Amway representatives. In one video on “Personal Worth,” DeVos speaks about how a faith in people has motivated Amway since the company’s beginning. The accompanying video illustrates how Amway representatives have used this faith in people’s ability to succeed. With this type of content, Amway makes an emotional appeal to audiences who share the company’s values, attracting people who are likely to be successful representatives.