Are You Bold Enough to Lean Into Truly Inspirational Brand Marketing?

Have you ever found yourself so stirred, so inspired by a piece of bold, creative collateral or advertising that you saved a direct mail piece or bookmarked it online – and kept it for months or even years? Your answer might be “never.” Inspirational branding strategies and creative don’t happen often. And, in many ways, they shouldn’t because it would be weird if every single piece of communication connected with deep meaning or emotion.

That said, when it does happen, it’s remarkable.

A Catalog Worth Saving

It happened to me in 2018. An REI catalog arrived in the mail, and the cover alone struck me. Edge to edge, it listed the negative things that women hear – often in conjunction with their ability to be athletes or lovers of the outdoors. And, every single one of them was crossed out. Then inside, I found story after story of women thriving and succeeding in outdoor endeavors.

Make no mistake – this was also a catalog of apparel and gear. But It read like a manifesto of women in the outdoors and allowed the company to champion its Force of Nature initiative to advance gender equity. I saved the catalog and referred to it often, just to relive the powerful experience of discovering it for the first time. And, as it happened, that experience solidified my loyalty to the company as my resource for sports and outdoors purchases.

A Commercial with Millions of Repeated Views

More often, we see this kind of compelling, stirring, sticky approach in video advertising. Take this Samsung commercial – one of India’s most viewed videos of 2017. It tells the simple story of a Samsung repairman struggling to reach a distant location to repair a television. After weathering storms and collapsed roads, he finally arrives at his destination… only to discover that it is a hostel for the blind. Still, he graciously fixes the television and sits with his sightless customers as they tune in to a singing competition.

The ad delivers a satisfying emotional experience that connects to the company and its commitment to customers in a unique, highly memorable way. Even now, four years later, thousands of people are still tuning in to see it.

What Makes These Daring Ideas Work?

The REI catalog and the Samsung ad don’t feel like ordinary marketing communications, which means that the decision to create them was risky. They might have been deemed failures if their execution hit the wrong emotional notes or completely ignored essential marketing messages. Likewise, had the companies allowed the comfort of their traditional sales come-ons and aggressive calls to action to eat into the power of these daring communications, they would have come and gone, as so many do. But that’s not what happened. By bravely focusing on the humanity of their audiences and showing that their brands understand and cater to often invisible, unique perspectives, these communications not only succeeded but transcended their media.

We’re working with one of our clients right now to create a similarly powerful experience in a significant piece of their collateral. It isn’t done yet, so we can’t show it to you. But we believe it rethinks how the company’s target audience is seen – and maybe even how they see themselves. Stay tuned.