It is rare that an advertisement creates an emotional response. We see thousands of ads a day and nearly all of them go by completely unnoticed. Television spots, banners on the web, and billboards bombard us as we make our way through the day. We see them so much that we’ve become desensitized to their effects. Despite this obliviousness to their work, advertisers continue to create ads appealing to us on a superficial level. When the ad doesn’t create the desired effect, they resort to the machine gun method of advertising: just keep shooting until something hits the consumer. This method is annoying and costly. But what if ads weren’t just ads? What if ads gave more value to the customer than just sending a message about the product? Some companies have decided to put the machine gun down and take the route of value over explanation. The results have been undeniable. One such successful marketing campaign made headlines recently. The product: a video game where players bludgeon endless hordes of zombies to death.
Dead Island is a first person adventure that puts the player on an island paradise turned nightmare after a zombie outbreak. I know this not because I read an article about it or skimmed the Wikipedia page. No, my information is first hand. I played through Dead Island in its entirety.
What got me interested in purchasing the game? I saw a teaser trailer a few months before the game was released. And while most advertisements will show how something works, what features it has, and what you can expect from purchasing it, Dead Island took a different approach. Dead Island attempted to appeal to me emotionally, and in doing so, made me interested in the product. It gave me value in its advertisement. I enjoyed watching it. As a matter of fact, I enjoyed it so much that I watched it several times that day and even tweeted about it. Think about that for a moment: I watched it several times. When is the last time you watched a commercial again on your DVR? Now I’m writing an entire blog post about Dead Island! I wanted other people to enjoy the advertisement as much as I did, so I told people about it and I spread it through social media. I can’t say the same thing about 99% of ads that I’m suffocated with each day, and maybe that’s a problem advertisers need to start addressing. But we’ll get to that in a minute. First, you must see this advertisement for Dead Island to understand what I’m talking about.
If your commercial isn’t going to affect me on some visceral level like that one did, why would I care to pay any attention to it? I need to feel something when I see your advertisement. Too often we see marketing campaigns slapped together in a nonsensical mishmash of poorly planned stupidity. Pop culture references and bad attempts at being funny aren’t enough. Where’s the craftsmanship? Where’s the love? If more advertisers sought to create something that has stand alone value, the product that goes along with it would sell. The proof is in the numbers.
The company that developed Dead Island is not a gaming juggernaut. Techland has made 22 titles since they started pumping games out in 2000, most of which I can’t say I ever played or came across. Their previously best known game, Call of Jaurez, sold an admirable 38,301 units in the US market (PS3) in its first week. Dead Island did 132,787 units, and those numbers have continued to rise in the three weeks since its release. The game’s publisher isn’t a major player either. Founded in 2002, Deep Silver has published a long list of moderately successful, but completely forgettable PC games (Birth of America?). Dead Island wasn’t some Activision game that gets 300 million dollars in advertising money. It was a small game, from a relatively unknown company, that managed to get the attention of a lot of people in a small amount of time. If that doesn’t sell you on emotional appeal and creating value in advertising, I don’t know what will.
It’s not enough to just tell me about your product anymore. I’m not the mindless consumer from the television era of the 1950’s. I’m well informed, and I know how to find any information I need about your product. The real question is do I want to know about your product? I need to be invested in what you’re offering; in the group of people that make up that product’s community. And that value isn’t going to come from disingenuous drivel. It’s going to come from putting passion and craftsmanship into advertising. It’s going to come from striking a cord with me emotionally. If some future generation came across your advertisement two hundred years from now, is it going to end up in a museum or the trash can? If your answer is trash can, then something needs to change. Create advertising that makes me feel happy, sad, envious, frightened, angry, anything! The worst thing you can be is forgettable. Make me talk to my friends about your advertisement, and I’ll do all the marketing you need.
The bottom line is this: if your ad doesn’t create an emotional response, you have failed as an advertiser.