Shock Advertising Versus Effectual Branding

“Bravery. It’s what defines us.” This is the tag line from the Audi commercial called “Prom,” which debuted as a one-minute spot in the Super Bowl and continues to run as a thirty-second spot today.

Another spot that aired during the 2013 Super Bowl, but has been absent from the airwaves ever since, is the “Perfect Match.” This infamous spot showed a super model making out with a nerd, and attempted to convey the company’s message: “When sexy meets smart your small business scores.”

Now, I’m a big fan of the company, Go Daddy, and we use their service to host many of the websites we produce. I remember when they first appeared on the scene and used other attractive women to promote their message. They too captured my attention. But, today, they are established, and they don’t need to shock us any more to promote their message.

Audi Prom CommercialWhile Go Daddy’s spot resulted in negative brand impressions in surveys after the Super Bowl, Audi’s spot continues to rekindle emotions that further associate us with their brand. Many people in the market for a luxury vehicle can identify with the young man, who receives a boost of confidence from his dad. He’s given the keys to success, and he uses them to be brave. He goes to the Prom alone and kisses the Prom Queen, only to be punched by the Prom King. The spot ends with the brave young man with a smile ear-to-ear driving the Audi home, as you hear the engine of this performance vehicle roaring.

So, while Go Daddy’s spot was reviling, Audi’s spot was inspiring. But it’s not just national companies who make the misjudgment of attempting to apply shock and extreme humor to try to sell products and services.  Who hasn’t been bombarded by lawyers demeaning themselves to try to sell their services like another commodity?

And we know the advertising paradigm has shifted when all of sudden insurance has become fun. I still don’t understand that something as serious as helping me recover from my home on fire or my car in a wreck is somehow a product in which entertainment will inspire me to buy. But, put enough rating points behind an ad and you too can become a household name.

However, is that really what your want your brand to stand for?

When you’re looking at creative options to display the values of your organization, take a lesson from Audi. Be bold, be creative, be true, because that’s what defines a brand.

John Houle is the president of JH Communications and can be reached at 401.831.6123