You’re sitting at your desk checking emails when your friend sends you a seemingly innocuous YouTube link followed by a crying emoji. You take a sip from your coffee mug, glance around to make sure no one is looking, and click play.
In the course of ninety seconds you are transformed from a slick, confident business person to a weeping infant who would rather be in the fetal position under your desk than sitting behind it. You try to hold it together, but it’s too late. You know that Judy from Accounting has heard you sniffling and the charade is over. You can’t hide it anymore: an ad just made you cry.
We’ve all been there. Whether it’s a pet reunion, a soldier’s homecoming, or the classic Clydesdales, you’ve been reduced to tears by a piece of promotional marketing. And that’s not something to be ashamed of. In fact, it’s something to celebrate—but not for the reason you might think. Brands should be applauded not because they make us cry, but because they’ve tapped into what makes us tick.
We cry when someone overcomes an incredible obstacle because we face our own obstacles every day. We cry over a lost dog because we’ve felt lost before. We cry tears of joy when we watch true love unfold because we all see the beauty in it. We have visceral reactions to ads because we relate on some deep human level to the story being told. We feel known in an intimate way. And instead of feeling violated by brands that tease our emotions, we love them for giving us something worth crying about.
Now, that doesn’t mean every brand should set out to make a tear jerker. That shouldn’t be the goal. It’s important to create a story worth telling, one that exemplifies your brand and what it stands for, not just tug on heartstrings for the heck of it. Emotions are powerful—and personal. If you fail, you risk alienating your audience (like the failed Super Bowl 2015 attempt by Nissan). But if you can find a human truth and link your brand to it in an authentic way, you can create some truly inspiring and amazing content, and gain the hearts of your audience as well.
At the end of the day, the memory of ads will come and go, and new things will grab your audience’s attention, but the impression your brand made in that moment will last a lifetime. So, capture us with a compelling truth. Tell us a compelling story. And we’ll cry our hearts out.
Haley Robinson | Copywriter