A Tornado, a Goldfish and a People-Focused Company Make for Compelling Advertising

Last week, I mentioned that a trend I think we’ll see more of in 2013 is authentic storytelling—using true stories to create compelling advertising. This week, I’d like to show you another example.

Belfor is a property restoration company. In 2011, Carol Tice of CBS News called them “one of those big, successful companies you never hear much about.” (SeeHow Belfor Grew to be #1 in Disaster Recovery.”)

Recently, due to two commercials—one 30 seconds long and the other one minute long—not only do we know their name, but we know what they do and who they are as a company, as a brand.

All that is due to a very compelling story and the personal touches mentioned that give us insight into Belfor.

Here’s the 30 second ad:

We’ve all watched in horror as news reports show towns devastated by tornadoes and other natural disasters. But we don’t often get to witness the recovery. Belfor is a company that specializes in such recovery.

What makes the company memorable is its company culture. Read the CBS News article mentioned above and you’ll see. Belfor CEO Sheldon Yellen, who appears in the ads, drives a company culture that’s “intensely people focused.”

We get that impression along with the notion that they truly care through their documentary-style ads. Here’s the minute-long one:

Companies that are great know that the little things matter. Belfor, through storytelling, convinces us that they are a caring and great company. As Yellen says at the end, Belfor is “restoring more than just property”—a tagline they obviously take to heart.

Look for your company’s stories. If you don’t have any worth sharing, maybe you need to change your company’s culture. And if you do have stories, then what are you waiting for? Tell them in a compelling, people-focused way.

Army Strong: 1st Infantry Division’s Suicide Prevention Campaign Gets Personal

We’re already seeing examples of one of the biggest trends of 2013—authentic storytelling. Marketing campaigns are getting more and more personal, with real stories from real people.

You may be surprised—or not—to know that one organization leading the way is the U.S. Army. Recently, I came across a campaign from the 1st Infantry Division that aims to tackle suicide prevention among soldiers in a more effective way.

I spoke with Mollie Miller from the 1st Infantry Division who filled me in on their “I Know How It Feels” campaign. A campaign that was born and executed within this Division by their own Public Affairs team—not by an agency.  The campaign captures actual soldiers admitting things like:

“I know how it feels to choose the harder right,” talking about taking time off to treat an injury.

Poster with soldier talking about asking for help

“Soldier on.” We’ve all heard the saying, meaning tough it out and keep your mouth shut. Who’s tougher than a soldier? The 1st Infantry is trying to change the meaning of “soldier on” and show everyone that being tough means asking for help. That’s strong.

Straight Talk from the Army Chief of Staff

According to Miller:

In late 2012, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno instructed leaders at all levels the Army refocus their efforts in the realms of suicide prevention. Despite a constant “attack” on suicide, the formation seemed to be losing ground in the effort to prevent soldier/family member suicide. Gen. Odierno asked Army leaders to focus their efforts on several key areas including stigma reduction, combating isolation, and resiliency. In an effort to communicate suicide prevention, stigma reduction and resilience messages to audiences who seemed to have turned a deaf ear to the traditional leadership-driven, buzz word-rich messages, the 1st Infantry Division Public Affairs team launched the “I Know How It Feels” Campaign.

The poster-based campaign is designed to show soldiers, family members and civilians they’re not alone in their struggles. The goal is to motivate them to get help “at the first signs of trouble, rather than waiting until problems seem monumental and unfixable.”

The posters feature actual soldiers, civilians and family members discussing their own personal struggles and what they did to overcome their challenges, like this one below featuring Lt. William Milzarski.

Soldier asking for help with nightmares

Lt. Milzarski shares his story about the war he brought home and how he sought help for recurring nightmares that disrupted his life.

Talking about feelings and getting help isn’t something anyone in the military is used to. So, it’s especially nice to see real soldiers brave enough to speak out. And it’s even more gratifying to see the positive response their honesty is bringing.

“Outstanding” Response

Reaction from soldiers, families and even the public have been very positive. Miller says:

The reaction has been outstanding. The audiences that we targeted (1st Infantry Division Soldiers and family members) as well as several secondary audiences (local community members, Army veterans, extended family members) have been praising this campaign here on post and throughout Facebook. Comments like “outstanding initiative” and “I wish the Army would have done something like this a long time ago” have followed every poster’s launch on Facebook.

This is a campaign that all marketers should take note of–an example of how to target a tough audience and step into delicate territory at the same time.

Follow the 1st Infantry Division on Facebook to see more of the fantastic things they do. And stay tuned to this blog, because I’m on the lookout for more powerful examples of using real-life stories in marketing, advertising and social campaigns to share with you.

The Best Super Bowl Commercial Wasn’t Actually a Super Bowl Ad

Fitting that Super Bowl commercials kicked off with an ad featuring prom (Audi’s ad)—an event everyone gets hyped up for but it never lives up to expectations. Sound familiar?

So much money spent on Super Bowl ads, yet most are still ho-hum, proving that money can’t buy creativity.

A few ads did stand out though, Taco Bell’s “Viva Young,” Amy Poehler’s Best Buy ad, VW’s “Get in. Get Happy” ad.

My winner is Coca-Cola’s first ad of the night—and, psst, it’s not really a Super Bowl ad. It has aired before (one source I saw said in Summer 2012, but it was uploaded to YouTube in November).

Yes, I’m giving them the sentimental vote—for a few reasons.

1. Messages promoting peace and kindness are needed right now.

With wars and violence raging in many countries and civil discourse being overtaken by loudmouths in Congress and elsewhere putting ego before progress, we need reminders that humans can be nice to one another. We need reminders that we’re all in this life together, so let’s choose kindness over vitriol and violence.

2. Coke proves they’re “the real thing” by including real acts of bravery and kindness.

According to Guido Rosales, Latin America Integrated Marketing Communication Director for Coca-Cola, as quoted in Fast Company’s article, Coca-Cola bought usage rights of real footage from security cameras, and re-created what they couldn’t purchase.

3. Waxing a bit nostalgic, Coke goes back to their roots.

If you were around in the ‘70s, you most likely remember the iconic Coke ads with a multicultural group of people singing, “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony…” It’s an idea they keep regenerating in different ways, which is great (as long as they do it well) because the idea is timeless.

All of these reasons could be summed up in one word—thoughtful. Coke put time and effort into gaining actual footage to send this message of kindness and peace. And while their tagline, “Open happiness” is corny and not really fitting for a soda, the company is trying to fulfill its brand promise through community and social media efforts and advertising.

Their actual Super Bowl commercial—the Coke Chase, didn’t live up to the hype, but every brand has hits and misses. And speaking of hits…

Slam dunk? Props to Oreo for taking advantage of the mid-game blackout with this tweet:

Oreo tweets during blackout can still dunk in the dark

Note the number of retweets & favorites after only 7 minutes.