Get Real: How to Create a Radically Relatable Marketing Campaign

These days, everyone wants to be the next viral phenomenon. They chase this modern-day brass ring of marketing by going to extremes, whether it’s by being quirky, funny, sexy – or all of the above.

And there is no shortage of success stories in this arena to substantiate this desire, from the Old Spice man to Dollar Shave Club. Seemingly, nothing compares to the luster of being the Internet’s most brightly shining star.

But there is another, more meaningful way to stand out from the crowd. Rather than trying to be the loudest, the most outrageous or the most hilarious, be the most real.

Hold up a mirror to your audience. Punch them in the gut with authenticity. Paint a picture that feel so relatable and familiar that they wonder who has been secretly filming their life.

The only way to achieve this level of emotional realism to be one with your tribe. You must know the touchpoints of their lives from the inside out. What keeps them up at night? What preoccupies their thoughts during the day? Which of life’s many minutia do they find most grating? What memories do they hold closest to their hearts?

Here are four such examples of powerfully understated campaigns that speak volumes to their audience:

Cheerios: Nana

We all grew up with Cheerios. We all have strong sense memories tied to consuming those humble little Os.

Mine revolve around summer vacations spent at the lake with my grandparents, eating Cheerios on the back porch (in a Cheerios-branded bowl, nonetheless).

The first time I saw this commercial, it left me gutted and wanting to reach for that wonderful yellow box if only to have the chance to enjoy one more sweet summer breakfast together.

Clorox: Life’s Bleachable Moments

This spot elicits an involuntary visceral response from anyone who knows that all-too-familiar sinking feeling that immediately precedes the act of reaching for the bottle of bleach to address the latest unpleasantness of life.

Volkswagen: Polo Dad

The converse of the bleachable moment, this one tugs at the heartstrings, recognizing all those acts large and small tirelessly performed in service of keeping the ones we love safe and secure in an uncertain world.

Nike: Find Your Greatness

Unlike so many ads in this genre, this spot is not aspirational. It’s not glamorous. It’s not a cinematic tribute to the untouchables among the elite of sport.

But it works. After all, we can’t all be Michael Jordan. We can all get up in the morning and strive to better ourselves.

And when the bookish kid who spent every day of elementary school dreading P.E. class finally crosses the finish line at her first half-marathon, she knows what it means to find your own form of greatness.

A parting shot

It’s possible that none of these spots moved you like they did me. And that’s okay. If they didn’t, they weren’t meant for you.

But for the members of these brands’ tribes, they touch a nerve. And, in doing so, they forge a lasting bond of loyalty to a brand that clearly recognizes and respects the things in life that really matter. After all, it’s not just about selling another bottle of bleach or pair of running shoes. It’s about making life’s icky moments a little less icky, or making it a little bit easier to face that next run in the cold, pre-dawn hours. And who doesn’t want to carry the torch for a brand like that?