The Rescue Dog and the $3.8 Million Commercial

Recently at AHA, we have been doing a great deal of brand journalism work with clients. More and more, organizations are focused on telling their story in an editorial style rather than through marketing or advertising pieces. Quite often, a good brand journalism story accompanies an advertising campaign.

Sunday’s Super Bowl is a perfect example of how brand journalism has slipped into the mainstream, without us really noticing. For many people who watch the Super Bowl, the ads are an important part of the experience. And let’s face it, they are pretty entertaining. And they should be, given how much they cost to air. I think the last estimate I heard was $3.8 million for a 30-second spot and that doesn’t include the cost of producing the ad. It’s a big investment for an organization. And the smart ones are making the most of it by attaching the “real story” behind the ad.

For example, Doritos ran a series of ads and one of them featured a funny little dog that had a lot of character. I happened to see some information about it on my Facebook page prior to the Super Bowl, so I went to check it out. It turns out the little dog in the ad is a rescue dog that was “discovered” – a little bit of a doggie Cinderella story – from being abandoned and in a shelter to becoming a star.

As a dog person, that story caught my attention and it gave me the chance to better connect with the Doritos brand – even though it didn’t promote their product to me in any way. But, as an animal lover, I like that the producers of the ad didn’t go to a breeder or only look for a purebred; they took a dog that likely hasn’t had the best life and they put her in the spotlight. This could lead to people seeing this and maybe thinking about adopting a shelter dog instead of buying one. That makes me happy. And it makes me feel a connection to the Doritos brand. Had they just run a funny ad with a quirky little dog, they would have caught my attention for a moment. Through brand journalism, I was told the backstory – and they engaged me. Smart. There are a lot of dog-loving, nacho chip-eating people in the world and that commercial and the story will get every one of us.

What’s your story? What do you have to share with your stakeholders, your target market and your community that will speak to them? Go beyond the traditional approach and think about what stories you tell your friends and family when they ask you about your organization. What makes people lean in and say: “really, that’s interesting…”

What are the human elements you can share that will engage and inspire people? Those stories are at the heart of your brand personality and they will bring your brand to life.

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