Laundry detergent. Paper towels. Diapers. They make you feel all emotional, don’t they? If they’re Procter and Gamble products, they just might.
P&G doesn’t sponsor the Olympics. It sponsors moms. It doesn’t sell laundry detergent. It sells all the love, pride, worries, hopes and dreams moms have for their kids. Those emotions just happened to be packaged in an orange box labeled “Tide.”
Most advertising campaigns make the product the star of the ad. In P&G’s campaigns, the star is instead their target consumer. The products aren’t mentioned and are shown only briefly as logos at the end. The moms featured in the ads aren’t shown buying or using the products. They’re just being moms, watching their kids with pride, love, anxiety and hope.
You don’t have to be the mother of an athlete, or even a mom, to relate to the ads. The emotions are universal. The ads don’t say “we make great products for your home.” They say “we know you. We understand you. We support you.”
How does that translate into selling Tide? We often don’t realize the role that emotion plays in so many of our decisions. We tend to feel first, then think. We make a decision based on emotion, then use logic to justify that choice. When we reach for that orange box, first we feel warm and supported, and then we think “this product gets my clothes clean.”
The emotional appeal only works if the product delivers. If Tide doesn’t get your clothes clean, all the warm and fuzzy feelings in the world won’t make you buy it again. But if the product delivers, that emotional connection gives it an edge over whatever else is on the shelf. “Sure, all these other products could probably clean my laundry. But Tide understands me.” That connection forges brand loyalty that keeps you reaching for the same product over and over again without even thinking about it.
Effective marketing isn’t about selling a product. It’s about selling the story of what that product does for you, how it makes you feel, and what buying it and using it says about you. P&G doesn’t sell Tide by selling Tide. It sells Tide by sponsoring moms.
Along with its stories about moms, P&G also used the star power of athletes to connect users to Tide in the Rio Olympics. P&G’s “Small Can Be Powerful” ad featuring gymnast Simone Biles had a 50 percent product recall rate, with 28 percent of viewers saying they were more likely to buy the product and 25 percent saying they felt more positive about Tide after seeing the ad.