The stars of this year’s Super Bowl weren’t the Broncos and Seahawks but the adorable Labrador puppy and muscular Clydesdale featured in a 60-second Budweiser beer commercial. At last count, the ad had more than 40 million views on YouTube. Pollster Frank Luntz noted on CBS This Morning that women and men in a focus group he arranged to watch the big game ads were deeply moved by it, some to tears. So why is this commercial so powerful?
To be sure, we have a soft spot for animals. Think of the many movie dogs and horses we have loved: Lassie, Beethoven, Toto, Seabiscuit, Joey, and Trigger. But the commercial isn’t really about cute animals. It’s about friendship, loyalty, persistence, and fighting for what really matters to you. That little puppy and big Clydesdale won’t be separated from each other. They overcome the forces that would keep them apart, outsmarting the humans in the process. Undergirding the ad is a powerful and universal storytelling that taps into our desire to love and be loved. And, yes, they are selling beer but we never see one. In telling this story, Budweiser artfully reinforces its brand promise of good friends and good times with the “bestbuddies” hashtag.
When we think about own communications, remember it is the good stories, not the special effects or celebrity spokespeople or hyped up adjectives that win. And yet so few companies, nonprofits, or individuals tell their stories well. They fail to draw out of their product, their people or their work what makes it most human. As you think about your organization’s efforts to engage, inspire and motivate your audiences, what story can you tell? Who are your story’s heroes and antiheroes? What role do your customers, donors, or employees play? When you start to think in story terms, you will open up a whole new dimension in your communications.
Try it, and like the puppy, stick with it. You might like it almost as much as the best of buddies.