April 13, 2017

How To Tell Emotional Brand Stories That Pull At Your Heart And Wallet

man framed from the back looking out an open window into grey beyond

We all have a heart. Emotional brand stories tap into your beating heart to leverage personal experiences, everyday challenges, and yes, even animal love (you knew there was a reason for all of those puppy videos), to compel their audience to take action. Today, we’ll share seven brand video examples.

Successful brands use emotion to tell a story

“People don’t always remember what you say or even what you do, but they always remember how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

Preach it. Maya Angelou is so right. Emotions drive our decisions and feelings about a person and product.

It’s important to use emotion in video storytelling because you have to stand out in the crowd. Video is becoming the most popular medium on the web. Authentic stories full of emotion will connect your brand to your audience. The story is what will pull on their heartstrings and their purse strings.

Brands see faster results with emotional stories

Emotion is a key part of a superior story structure. There are many case studies to back it up.

The Harvard Business Review researched the best way to maximize customer value, and found emotion is even superior to customer satisfaction. Wait. What? Yes.

The study examined hundreds of brands. HBR found that after a big bank used emotion to connect their new credit card with Millennials, new accounts increased by 40% and use among Millennials shot up 70%.

There are countless stories of brands using effective emotion to turn a profit at the checkout counter.

One reason: Customers make emotional decisions more quickly than rational decisions. They don’t overthink a purchase when there’s emotion involved.

If they rationalize the decision, it will take longer and there are more obstacles to a purchase. Emotional connections help promote impulse buys.

There are many different ways to approach emotional brand storytelling, so here are some examples.

1. Connect your brands to your target audience with animals

Budweiser always nails it with their emotional campaigns. They often use animals as an emotional motivator.

Animals bring out the fun-loving side in everyone. They break down walls or barriers making it easier for the brand to connect with every potential customer.

In Budweiser’s 2014 “Puppy Love” commercial, it’s the music, images, and the powerful video of a puppy and a Clydesdale that connect you. The sound of a small puppy barking and the image of him standing next to a gigantic Clydesdale resonate.



It creates a warm and fuzzy feeling inside all of us. The puppy is adorable, and it’s a story of the puppy escaping to find his best friend – the towering Clydesdale.

When you connect with your audience emotionally, your video stays on the minds of consumers longer. It also helps a marketing hashtag stick with its intended audience. #BestBuds quickly trended after the Budweiser ad appeared in the Superbowl.

Emotion takes you beyond the brand. Budweiser wasn’t selling beer in that ad. They were selling friendships and connections. Of course, they want you to have a connection to their beer. However, the emotion is so strong they never mentioned the product until the very end.

2. Build emotion with videos based on real experiences

Successful brands use real stories to relate to their audience and ultimately connect to them.

JetBlue took a documentary-style video approach with their “Fly Babies” ad that recognizes moms on Mother’s Day.

Who tugs at our heartstrings more than our mom? We all have one so there’s a universal truth that applies.

JetBlue had moms share their fears about flying with a small child. All moms have been there. The ad relates to moms instantly.



It also relates to travelers regardless of whether they have kids. We’ve also all been that traveler that dreads a screaming child sitting next to us.

This ad takes something so many of us have pondered with horror and makes it something to smile about. It makes us think differently about something so common.

Putting a new spin on a real problem helps a company relate to its audience.

When you’re telling a real story, you don’t even need spin. JetBlue makes us smile because they give a discount every time a baby cries.

3.  Use brand advocacy or testimonial videos

When Dove released a new shower foam, they simply kept it real. Authentic stories sell. Instead of the brand talking about how their product will impact your life, they have the consumer give their perspective.

In this case, it’s the unique perspective that draws us in.  Dove used a young blind woman to talk about how the new shower foam felt different. What better way to drive home comfort in the shower than using a young women who can’t see, and who relies solely on how things feel.

Her vivid descriptions make us feel warm, as if we’re taking a shower with this new Dove product. Testimonials are a powerful way to tell a story full of emotion.

4.  Take us on a journey of emotion for commercial spots

Good storytelling takes the viewer on a journey. That journey, full of ups and downs, builds a variety of emotions.

The University of Phoenix brand campaign uses empathy and hope in their brand film about a Mexican-born nursing graduate named Carlos.

You’re taken along on Carlos’s journey adapting to life in the United States. He took care of his siblings while his parents worked long hours. Carlos also worked odd jobs to earn money for his family.

As you follow Carlos’s path of ups and downs, you begin to relate to Carlos. He’s an underdog, and you find yourself immersed in watching his transformation from underdog to hero. Finally, you experience triumph as you learn Carlos earned a nursing degree and now saves lives.

You’re not laughing or crying at the end. You’re inspired. There are a variety of emotions you can use to connect to your audience.

5. Compel audiences with cause marketing

Cause marketing is another powerful way to drive home emotion. In the previous example, the University of Phoenix ad briefly touches on a societal hot topic – that of immigration. It’s a story about succeeding, but there’s an underlying theme of social advocacy too.

Brands have a powerful voice, so people listen when they take a stand.  By addressing a social issue, controversial or not, your message resonates.

Microsoft shows its support for a cause with its “Make What’s Next” ad. Once again, you’re taken on a journey.

Young girls share their hopes and dreams for solving world problems like climate change. Then, they see that it’s possible with technology.


When the girls learn in the end that just over 6% of women actually graduate with a STEM degree,  the sheer disappointment on the girls faces emotionally connects you with the aspiring young women.

The story empowers young girls to beat the odds and stay committed to Science and Technology (STEM) degrees.

By taking a stand, and focusing on a cause, Microsoft emotionally connects to their audience.

6. Create the best brand anthem videos that connect through visual storytelling

Visual storytelling is just as important as the spoken word.

Hallmark uses visuals as a compelling call to action in its #CareEnough Anthem. They want to inspire people to care about others, and they emotionally connect you to the piece with visual storytelling that stops you in your tracks.

The greeting card maker shows images of people lending a hand and helping strangers. Their message is that the small things can change someone’s day.

Dean Rodenbough, VP of External Affairs at Hallmark, told Scenic Road what sparked the creative:

“The campaign is a response to the current social unrest and lack of empathy people seem to have for one another.  It has been resonating with consumers and we believe it is a natural message to be shared by Hallmark.”

This is a great story for Hallmark to tell because of its brand is authentically emotional to the core. But, your brand doesn’t have to be connected to emotion as immersively as Hallmark to top the list of best brand anthem videos. Every brand should challenge itself to use emotion to pull at its audience’s heart and wallet, and will reap the rewards.



7. “Sadvertising” in fundraising videos

Fundraising videos have no choice but to pull on hearts so wallets open. It’s essential to get would-be donors to give. More so, the donations increase as the emotion increases in a story.

Some call this “sadvertising”: when you tell a sad story to compel people to act. While it’s not the most aspirational term, the bottom line is that it works.

Plus, it’s completely authentic. Most non-profits are working to better lives of people facing serious problems. Their lives are often sad, so it’s a story that’s true to the brand.

Watch this Scenic Road video.  Unlike some of the other examples, there is nothing directly relatable about this. Most of us can only imagine the daily challenges a disabled veteran faces. The video connects, though, because we follow the veteran as he tries to do tasks that we all take for granted (get out of bed, climb stairs, walk to run errands, pay bills), and we can see how different it is for him.

In the end, no matter which way you connect with your audience (whether it’s through a commercial, brand advocacy piece, or tiny, fluffy kittens), there are plenty of compelling ways to build in emotion so your audience remembers your brand.  What you put into the heart, stays in the head.

What type of emotion have you used in a story, and how was it received?  

Email me to let me know, and perhaps I’ll feature it in an upcoming blog.