Selling with an hour-long Ad!
A long time back I came across the Juicy Chemistry brand via an ad, it seemed interesting, so I ordered a deodorant. The product experience was quite different from typical deodorants, and at no fault, it got shoved into a corner, and never used again.
But then I heard the founder speak about the brand, how it all started, the struggles, their values, and what makes them different. Not on an Ad, but on a podcast, that I willingly paid attention to. Suddenly my perception of the brand changed, and I placed another order.
Imagine having an hour to sell your brand. We struggle with 6–30 seconds slots, in which the consumer is navigating multiple screens, and activities, intently focusing on the skip ad button as we forcefully take away control from her life.
One would say that the jump that brands see post-airing on Shark Tank or Barbershop is due to discovery. But in reality, there are multiple reasons, discovery being one, but it is also the power of the narrative. With 15–20 minutes the brand can share a human story, not just the benefits of the product.
When everyone watches it, we have a shared story, something to discuss, to connect over. No longer are we buying just a product, we are buying what the brand/founder stands for. We may be doing it anyway, but when we buy digital brands, often the signaling is limited because not everyone may be exposed to the brand. When Flatheads got another chance it was not because of the quality of the product, it was for the story.
Another strange behavior is that while we want our own growth stories to be easy, to be without struggles, we respect those who have struggled. Which is why there is a distaste for nepotism. So the story must have a hero’s journey, how the founder embarked on a quest, overcame challenges, and transformed during the process.
Here is a little story from an old movie capturing how narratives make a difference.
What was the most functional (non-emotional) aspect of the movie that led to Raj and Simran finding love together?
That a young man and a woman went on a Euro Trip at the same time, and ran into each other. Now, this one action (function) led to other things like them falling in love, Raj winning over Simran’s family, fighting with the other guy’s sidekicks and finally getting to “jee le apni zindagi”.
See how all the emotional aspects are a result of some pre-requisite core functional actions… going on a Euro Trip, bumping into an attractive person, and finding yourself in situations that would lead to love.
A lot of startups hear brand messages like: sell an emotion, not a function learn from Nike’s “Just Do It” or Apple’s “status appeal”
But what they forget is all these emotions are built after solving for some core differentiating functions, which are clearly communicated to elite early adopters such as athletes (in the case of Nike) and tech + design aficionados in case of Apple.
A lot of startups (D2C brands especially) tend to only be focusing on the emotion lens, with barely any functional differentiator to begin with which will probably not build deep loyalties.
I feel the early parts of building a product are solving core functional problems better than your competitors and getting the validation from a narrow set of elite users.
Once it’s established that the product is superior, then add emotion and status to market it to a broader audience. I’ll take the example of Ultrahuman. I feel they solved for constant tracking of sugar spikes in your body on a phone, and then topped it up with a patch that brings you status by the fact that you’re wearing it on a tricep with a short sleeved t-shirt and good muscles to showcase.
Trying to build emotion with no differentiated superior functionality, in most cases, is just gaseous spend on marketing in an over-competitive and commoditized market.