Every movement begins with a moment.
Halloween’s here this week, and I can’t think of a better time to explore the phenomenon of chills — specifically, the ones brought on by great advertising creative. The little shiver. The nose burn. The feeling that what you just saw was a little bit more than you expected from something that is, inherently, marketing a product or service to you.
Chill-inducing advertising is visceral. It makes brand advocates of people who are on the fence and leaves you thinking about it long after it’s crossed your (consumer) path. Recently, I’ve been pondering what constitutes truly goose bump-worthy advertising. A few elements stand out:
> Human insight. This one is paramount. It’s the inadvertent gut check the communication gives the viewer — the instant personal connection that stems from a collective, unspoken understanding. All advertising strives for this in one way or another, but the best chill-inducing content delivers on that personal yet universal experience. Something else worth noting: the big things and the little things give us chills, but rarely what falls in the middle. It’s either a small truth that resonates universally or a global truth that reminds us that we’re simply a tiny part of something much bigger than ourselves.
> Great production value. It has to be well thought out and flawlessly executed. All the t’s need to be crossed and the i’s need to be dotted. Extensive thought and planning must be invested (yes, this should be a given, yet so often, it’s not).
> A brand connection that’s genuine, not preachy. Remember that the brand is a vehicle to tell the story, not the story itself. Also, the connection to the brand can (and should be) a pleasant surprise. When an ad is of chill-producing quality, it’s easy for the viewer to forget that it’s meant to sell a product or service at all.
As more and more advertising skews to digital and social, it seems that less and less work is chill worthy. And while chill-producing work isn’t limited to TV spots, the nature of our multiscreen world means that it’s more challenging to produce content that gives that little jolt. Sure, we can deliver great creative in the digital space, but if the context in which a user interacts with that content isn’t conducive to chills (e.g., scrolling through your phone when you’re waiting in line at the DMV), then it’s going to be hard to achieve that emotional connection.
Lately, the advertising moments that catch my attention are not the large, multimillion-dollar sweeping campaigns or the new ad unit that turns my desktop into a spaceship (or inserts a video into an article that bears no relevance to what I’m reading). It’s the smaller efforts because these, when well considered, foster actual relationships. It’s the 404-error with a sheepish smile and apology (Lego’s is a personal favorite) or the customer service email greeting that sassily and conspiratorially brings me into the fold. Maybe it’s a form email, but it doesn’t matter so much when I see that the brand is making an effort in places that aren’t so public. Maybe the evolution of the chills phenomenon includes larger activations while also planning for these more personal moments.
In observing a number of these smaller interactions, some rules of thumb dictate success:
1. Understand the context and mindset of the person who’s encountering the work. Don’t try to make your point in 60 seconds when you only have 10 (or, probably more accurately, 3).
2. Be true to the core of your brand’s personality. If you’re a fun-loving and carefree brand, this is not the time to let your more stilted corporate side shine.
3. Behave like a human being. A brand isn’t technically a person, no. But when you have one-on-one attention from a consumer, that’s as close to a personal relationship as you’ll ever get. It seems simple, but usually the most considered things are.
It’s time for brands to get smarter than they’ve ever been about where their consumers are and what they’re doing. You need to make the effort to push creative to stay connected — innately, authentically and emotionally — to real consumer moments. Because at the end of the day, it’s chill-producing work that changes people’s minds, sticks with them and ultimately inspires advocacy. And without a foundation that’s built on the everyday, personal interactions that happen in places like email, CRM and social, the big and flashy just doesn’t pack a chill-worthy punch.
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