15 best Super Bowl XLVII storytelling commercials

There was an obvious theme in the recent Super Bowl commercials and if you read my last post I’m sure you probably picked up on it: STORYTELLING.  As promised, I compiled a list of 15 additional examples of storytelling in commercial advertisements that you can use as inspiration as well as a resource to help you brainstorm for your own ideas.  They are in no particular order, and the type of storytelling incorporated into each commercial varies among them all.

After watching each video, I would suggest scribbling down a few notes about what you observed that worked or didn’t work regarding the story telling technique(s) being used!

1. Audi – “Prom”

2. Samsung Mobile USA – “The Next Big Thing”

3. Kia Sorento – “Space Babies”

4. Taco Bell – “Viva Young” (one of my favorites!)

5. Subway – “A Story 15 Years in the Making”

6. Hyundai – “Don’t Tell”

7. Milk Mustache Campaign Super Bowl XLVII

8. M&M’s – “Love Ballad”

9. Axe Apollo – “Lifeguard”

10. Doritos – “Goat 4 Sale”

11. Doritos – “Fashionista Daddy”

12. Bud Light – “Lucky Chair”

13. Coca Cola – “Chase Ad” (notice that this commercial plays on interactive storytelling)

14. Jeep – “Whole Again”

And of course I saved the BEST for last, hands down, Ram Trucks wins the best storytelling advertisement of the century award…

15. Ram Trucks – “Farmer”

The power of storytelling

Take a few minutes to watch this commercial:

Now take a look at this commercial:

After seeing both commercials, which one meant more to you?  How did it make you feel?  Can you put a name to the component of the commercial that made it so appealing?

I’m guessing that for most of you, the second video was the most meaningful—and not just because you recognized it from the recent Super Bowl.  And incase you were wondering, it was my top pick between the two, and also probably within my top five personal favorite commercial advertisements of all time!!!  But back to what made it so great.  I’ll even give you a hint: it wasn’t entirely due to Stevie Nicks performing Landslide in the background (although that song will always pull at my heart strings, I dunno about you), the use of that adorable baby Clydesdale (they might be onto something with the whole baby animals idea though), or even the handsome actor they chose (I realize this opinion may not be shared by everyone).  So if we can’t attribute the commercial’s success to any of those elements, what exactly was it that made us feel all warm and fuzzy inside?  Well, the answer my friends, is simple: STORYTELLING!

I started thinking about storytelling in terms of marketing strategy after I read this article by Jeremy Hsu from the September 2008 issue of Scientific American titled “The Secrets of Storytelling”.  According to Hsu,

“…stories have a unique power to persuade and motivate, because they appeal to our emotions and capacity for empathy.”

And I also learned a bunch of other cool things that I can’t help but share too so here are some of them (taken directly from the same article):

1. “Storytelling is one of the few human traits that are truly universal across culture and through all of known history.“

2. Psychologists have come up with a term called “narrative transport,” which describes a state of deep mental involvement that a person might feel after hearing a story.  A 2004 study by psychologist Melanie C. Green found that prior knowledge and life experience affected whether narrative transport occurred within individuals.  For example, volunteers in this particular study read a short story about a homosexual man attending his college fraternity’s reunion.  Volunteers reading the story who had homosexual friend or family members, as well as participants with past experiences in fraternities or sororities showed higher rates of “transportation.”  They also perceived the events, settings and characters of the story as more realistic.

3. Empathy, also known as Theory of Mind, plays a big role in the power of storytelling because it is crucial to social interaction and communal living.  It gives us the ability to relate to one another, and put ourselves into another person’s shoes.

4.  “Children develop their sense of empathy around age four or five.”

5.  “In a 1994 study by Fritz Heider and Mary-Ann Simmel, participants were shown an animation of a pair of triangles and a circle moving around a square and then asked what was happening.  The subjects described the scene as if the shapes had intentions and motivations—for example, “The circle is chasing the triangles.”  Many studies since then have confirmed the human tendency to make characters and narratives out of whatever we see in the world around us.”

6. “According to Steven Pinker, a Harvard University evolutionary psychologist, stories are an important tool for learning and for developing relationships with others in one’s social group.”

7. “A 1997 study by evolutionary biologist Robin Dunbar found that social topics account for 65% of speakin time among people in public places, regardless of age or gender.”

8. “A 2007 study by marketing researcher Jennifer Edson Escalas found that a test audience responded more positively to advertisements in narrative form as compared with straightforward ads that encouraged viewers to think about the arguments for a product.  Studies such as these suggest people accept ideas more readily when their minds are in a story mode as opposed to when they are in an analytical mind-set.”

The point of this blog post, if it hasn’t been made clear already, is that you and your company/business would be wise to consider the use of storytelling as a possible marketing channel.  Think about what kind of people make up your target market—what do they care about?  What are their interests?  Then put yourself in their shoes and come up with some content and fitting storylines that would mean something to them.

I’m not an expert and I can’t guarantee results, but in all seriousness—our brains are wired to pick up on storytelling.  And besides that, you have solid proof of how powerful storytelling can be if you watched the two videos at the beginning of this blog.

I hope this blog post provided some useful information – don’t hesitate to provide feedback!  I’m also interested in finding more great examples of storytelling from the marketing standpoint so if you have any favorite commercials of your own that would demonstrate this PLEASE share them with me via email: tnickels@wisc.edu, or leaving me a comment with a link would be fine too!  Thanks everyone!