I recently watched the documentary Minimalism. It’s a story about two men realizing the amount of meaningless “stuff” they had in their homes, eliminating the excess, and focusing on the things that matter in life. Minimalism is an inspirational movement, to say the least, and I couldn’t help but home in on some points the documentary made about how the advertising industry has influenced our consumption decisions.
We see an ad and immediately we’re told why we need this product. We might already own five at home, but being that this is the latest and greatest of its kind, we need it, so we buy it. Even though we’re consumed by debt, we’re still making purchases, and that’s the vicious cycle of our materialistic society in North America.
After watching this documentary, it got me thinking: I’m in the advertising industry. Shouldn’t I feel more guilt for contributing to that message and a society that’s become obsessed with buying stuff? But the thing was, I felt no guilt. Not because I’m a morally corrupt individual, but because our team at Habit has a more holistic approach when we look at an advertising campaign. Here are some of the areas we focus on to get us started.
1. Tell a story.
Ever since we were kids, we’ve loved stories. And there’s no better way to take someone on a journey of understanding, education, and connection than through storytelling. Every business has a story to tell, and as consumers we’re interested in that story, but so rarely do we hear it. If you haven’t told your story about your business, it’s time to start sharing.
Start with the basics. Why did you start up your business? How did you start up? Were there struggles along the way? What’s the big picture; is there some philanthropic part of your business that you’re not sharing? Or perhaps your business’s vision contributes to society or your community. People connect to these stories and are intrigued by them so much that they also want to support your cause.
2. Connect through emotion.
We’ve all seen the ads for Dove: Like a Girl and Real Beauty Sketches. Part of why these ads are so successful is because they know their audience so well. They focus on the emotional connection of being a woman or a girl, and we connect to their message about real beauty and self confidence.
If you’re on any of the social platforms, you might have also seen Tasty’s video ads, which show 30–60-second step-by-step directions for delicious recipes. Tasty recently launched the Fight Dirty campaign, which uses the same instructional format with one game-changing ingredient: dirty water.
When dirty water is added to a delicious meal, you’re immediately repulsed by the end result. The campaign reminds us that many people don’t have access to clean water, and Tasty’s video promotes this awareness to help raise donations for charities funding clean water initiatives.
The best and most memorable ads always connect with human emotion. Being able to connect on a higher moral level with your customers is the added bonus that often convinces customers to choose you over your competitor.
3. Communicate genuine value.
From the moment we wake up until the moment we go to sleep, we are bombarded with ads telling us why we need the latest gadget. Now more than ever, it’s becoming even more important that we find a way to communicate not only the value of our products and services, but also the genuine value our business provides as a whole.
Think like your customer. As the gentlemen from Minimalism mentioned, when you’re thinking of making a purchase, think about how this particular item will add value to your life. Even if you’re not a “minimalist,” this is a great tip for us all to think about. Businesses should ask, “How does this product or service I’m selling add value to my customer’s life and why would they choose to purchase it from me?”
After all, with millennials being one of the largest purchasing groups in North America, we tend to see value beyond just a simple product purchase — it’s about the company as a whole. And as purchasers, the people making decisions are increasingly becoming more influenced by the company’s sustainable, environmental, philanthropic, and social efforts.
These are just a few tips for breaking through the clutter of “ads.” At Habit, we truly believe in the passion-driven business owner who has a story to tell. We focus on educating and communicating to people who want to hear the message rather than focusing on targeting the masses. When we can communicate that a business’s product or service has a positive influence on someone’s life and their values align with the customer’s, that’s when we know we’ve done it right.
After all, it’s people we connect to, not things.