Following the example of Sam Adams’ long-running TV campaign, which features the company owner frequently dunking himself in vats of his beer alongside the blue-collar men brewing it, Budweiser recently traded in its equestrian roots for a more down-to-earth campaign, trying to brand itself as a company composed of real people, for real people.
Like the Sam Adams spots, Budweiser’s features the “real-life” people brewing its beer, telling their stories and thanking customers for their support. The reason the spot fails, unlike Sam Adams’, is that it isn’t entertaining or upbeat. It doesn’t work hard enough to create in viewers the positive emotional response it desires, but instead simply asks for it, pleadingly, exposing its intentions in a way that feels disingenuous.
Volvo’s recent “A Volvo Isn’t for Everyone” TV ad encountered a similar problem. The point was to contrast Volvo drivers – in this case a mother making funny faces at her children – with the stuck-up divers of other luxury cars.
Because Volvo is the one creating the Us vs. Them distinction, one that is so aggressive (with Volvo actually saying they “like” that their cars “aren’t for everyone”), it reflects worse on Volvo than the companies and people they were trying to distinguish themselves from. Additionally, the message puts Volvo in a branding bubble. While Volvo enjoys a profitable reputation for being safe and family-friendly, by highlighting this particular element as their brand identity they may undermine their status as a high-end, high-performance luxury car.
Every brand wants to create an emotional response in consumers. However it can’t be forced, like Volvo’s aggressive ad, or coerced it, like Budweiser’s transparent ad. It has to be done tactfully, subtly, and most of all, entertainingly in order to engage as many demographics as possible. Volvo is attempting to gain customers – to include them in their brand story – by telling the world that many of them aren’t invited.