by John Houle

I was watching my favorite TV show on DVR, when I was captivated by a commercial, which struck me even more than the fantastical melodrama about the world of advertising I’m so drawn to.  Instead of fast forwarding, I actually kept rewinding the spot.

What ad could garner such strong emotions in me, not only preventing me from fast forwarding but actually inspiring me to pen an article?

It’s called “My son Steven,” for the Chrysler 300, and these lines brought up emotions of my own father:

“…When he started his own firm people thought he took a gamble, but it isn’t that way when you know what you’re doing. I don’t always agree with him. But he’s making the game follow him and that makes him his father’s son.”

The ad ends with, “The world will hear the roar of our engines.”

And there’s no doubt that Chrysler has roared back. Chrysler brand sales are up 56% and the 300 has had triple-digit year over year sales gains.  Not bad for a company that almost was on the trash heap of history. Whether it’s their new innovative models, or their inspiring advertising, the company is doing something right.

This same company also has brought us “Halftime in America” with Clint Eastwood giving that gritty “All American” pitch and rapper Eminem’s personal appeal for Detroit’s Renaissance.  So, what can we learn from their advertising?

These commercials connect with us. They stir up emotions of pride for our country and remembrance of our fathers.  Many of us can relate to having taken a chance in life and not having always agreed with our parents.  There’s also nothing more American than: “Dream big, set your own course and shoot for the stars,” as explained in Chrysler’s ad description for “My Son Steven” on YouTube.

Evoking an emotional response, striking that “responsive chord” in advertising can make the difference in how successfully you sell your product or service. It’s simply sales, but where the average salesperson can potentially reach hundreds in a day, strong advertising reaches tens of thousands locally and millions nationally. Just as your best salesperson connects with his or her customers, so too should your advertising. Your best salesperson does not ramble off a bunch of features when selling your product, but instead explains why your product makes life better.

The Chrysler ads do not tell us that the car has a 3.6 liter V6 engine, gets 28 miles to the gallon, or has Bluetooth connectivity.  Instead it tells us that the car is designed for that young man or woman who’s taken a chance in life, that works hard and has achieved, and wants to drive a car that reflects his or her status. It makes us feel good about who we are and that America is back on top again when it comes to manufacturing cars.

As small businesses owners, we don’t have the luxury of multimillion dollar creative budgets and advertising buys. So how can you compete, especially against the likes of large corporations who have ads that are quirky and make us laugh?

How about an ad like this:

“I wanted to be a professional ball player, or an actor, but when I graduated from college, I needed a job. I was fortunate that the owner took me under his wing. I run my own shop now, and raised my family from my hard work.  I dream today about how I can make things better, and I know my job helps people. I’m like so many other small business owners working to make a living. That’s why it’s so important to me to help people right here in our community. I’m a Trusted Choice agent, and I’m here to help you with your insurance.”

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