Sentimentality and Selling

While reading through some articles on the online version of magazine, Vice, I stumbled upon one based on holiday advertising in the United Kingdom. In the article the author compared this time in the UK to that of the Super Bowl in the US for advertising companies. I thought this was interesting because of the framing and tone of both events and how different advertisements must be. While both periods of time suck out millions and millions from companies, they have a distinctly different attitude towards selling. At the same time though, many of the techniques behind selling remain the same. I began to question how effective these techniques were.

One of the first approaches that I noticed was that of sentimentality. We’ve all seen a commercial that’s made us want to cry (or even succeeded!) I am just as guilty as anyone else. Yet the question comes down to – Does it make you want to buy the product? These tear jerking, incredibly thought out and complex commercials may be fun to talk about the next day, but they should also make you want to go out and buy whatever product they’re selling. This is what I see as the downfall of the sentimentality commercial kick. For example, Budweiser has been at the forefront of this trend for a while now. Every Super Bowl, viewers can expect to see a Budweiser commercial that will make them say “aww”. That “aww” moment isn’t exactly a call for action though. I’ve never personally seen a commercial of this type and felt the urge to buy that product.

In the same vein, a recent ad by British superstore John Lewis has followed the same algorithm. The commercial focuses on the friendship of a bear and hare and as Christmas comes along, the bear must hibernate and the hare is saddened by this. Thus as a gift, the hare gives a clock to the bear so he may enjoy Christmas as well along with the tag line, “Give someone a Christmas they’ll never forget”. The store urges that you can get any gift you may need from them. Although clever and cute, I sincerely doubt that commercial would ever drive me to John Lewis, had I not already intended to go there. The story and animation of the commercial overwhelmed the bigger message that was “shop at John Lewis”. Had perhaps they taken a slightly less narrative route not so dependent on sentimentality I may have felt differently. 

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