Read this article at: Advertising Age
Consumers Ignore Ads That Aren't Telling Their Stories
It's All About Them: Marketers Must Listen to Customers on Their Home Turf to Get the Real Story
By Tom Neveril
Published: March 10, 2008
I was recently hired to investigate the viability of a beverage for surfers. What turned out to be an eye-opening experience involved interviewing surfers at surf shops, pizza places, bars and the beach. Each casual interview began with some discussion about brand preferences, mostly related to surfing. While I was looking for patterns, their thoughts were all over the map and conveyed little brand loyalty.
Typical responses included the Spicoli-esque bit of wisdom, "Sometimes you want to go classy, and sometimes you want to go slashy."
Then we talked about the surfer lifestyle and culture. Invariably, the interviewees started talking about the key players and prominent personalities in the surfing world. They told me about the laid-back attitude of Australian surfer Mick Fanning, who shook up a Foster's and pounded it immediately after a winning ride. Or "mutant-talented" Kelly Slater, who somehow won an event in Tahiti after breaking his foot.
But they also wanted to tell me about how a hugely talented kid from Huntington Beach got into a brawl with the locals at Pipeline or how their rowdy buddy always manages to derail plans for mellow nights at home. That was when the interviews had real consistency: in the stories that demonstrated tribal codes and rituals. And that was when the interviewees were enjoying the interviews.
I soon realized that this group likely would ignore the advertising for a new beverage -- or any product -- if it didn't tap into their stories. That is not because they wouldn't want to know, for example, that a new beverage flavor perfectly complements the taste of fish tacos. They actually might like to know that. The problem is, if that's what the ad is about, the surfers won't see it or hear it. Simply put, if the ad isn't a story about them, they will ignore it.
Nearly all of us are getting better at tuning out the cacophony of rational claims. Smart advertisers recognize that. And that's why the most liked, most memorable ads usually are stories about the audience. How else could Procter & Gamble's Tide brand engage the mostly male 2008 Super Bowl audience? It certainly didn't spend 30 seconds explaining the innovative features of its stain-removal product. Instead, its commercial, "Talking Stain," portrayed a clearly identifiable situation among men: an older man interviewing a younger man who has a coffee stain on his dress shirt. As the hapless candidate discusses his interpersonal skills, he's shouted down by the loud, gibbering stain. At the end of the commercial, the stain is erased -- and silenced -- by the Tide to Go product.