Emotional advertising that will leave you with goosebumps

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

When brand leaders say they want emotional advertising, I usually say “I can’t wait to see this emotional creative brief you wrote.” 

Without digging deep to understand the emotional space you should play in and the consumer insights that lay beneath the surface, your asking for an emotional ad feels like a random game of chance. 

To get emotional advertising that work for you, you must understand the emotional space that is motivating to consumers, and ownable for your brand, and then layer in emotion-based consumer insights.

emotional ads

Do you understand the emotional space your brand can win?

Please stop writing briefs that say their brand is trusted, authentic, reliable and yet likable. From my experience, marketers are better at the functional than the emotional. Let’s try to take a rational approach to emotions. As a brand, you want to own one emotional space in the consumer’s heart as much as you own the rational space in the consumer’s mind. I have used Hotspex research methodology to create a ‘cheat sheet’ with 8 major Emotional Consumer Benefits, that includes optimism, freedom, being noticed, being liked, comfort, be myself, be in control and knowledge. To own a space in the consumer’s heart, brands should own and dominate one of these zones, always thinking relative to what zone your competitor may own. Do not choose a list of emotions from all over the map, or you will confuse your consumer. Use the supporting words to add flavor to your emotional brand positioning statement.

Narrow down to potential clusters of emotional benefits, by matching what consumers want and what your brand does best. Take 2-3 of the emotional zones from the cheat sheet above and then add 2-3 support words per zone to create a cluster.

Using this type of model, here’s how the emotional benefit clusters for Apple and Google shake out. 

The Apple brand is about optimism, supported by feeling inspired, motivating and special. It also is about feeling free, with being alive and excited. 

On the other hand, Google is more about knowledge and feeling smarter, informed and wise. Google allows you to stay in control, with reliable information you can trust and respect.


Before you ask your agency for emotional advertising, you should know which emotions you consider most motivating to your consumers and most ownable for your brand.

10 best examples of emotional advertising

Google "Paris"

For all the romantics, this is one of the most emotional ads I have ever seen. The ad tells the complete story through google searches, with a few surprises like the airline ticket, wedding bells and of course the baby. While it tells the story, it still manages to deliver on the emotions of  knowledge and control. 


Google "Reunion"

I wrote a story about this, and my article promised a Google ad that would make you cry even though it has not one word of English. Try it out. I remember this old P&G advertising guy who always said “you know you have a good spot if you can turn the sound off and still get the ad”. I watched this highly emotional ad without understanding one word that was spoken and I was able to follow along. And I cried.

This Google India ad is a beautiful story of two older gentleman who were childhood friends and desperately miss each other. The ad shows how their two grandchildreen organize a reunion, using Google for looking up, finding, tracking or just checking any little details that makes us more knowledgeable and gives us an added sense of control. The Google searches are throughout the ad, but never seem to get in the way of the beautiful story.  Is it weird that two of the most emotional ads are from Google?

Ram "I am a farmer."

Aired during the Super Bowl, it’s one of the most emotional ads I have ever seen. Using Paul Harvey’s storytelling hit a positive vibe with Farmers and Americans in general. The simplicity of the idea, yet storytelling at it’s best. They didn’t over-do the branding, but consumers get so engaged in the ad, they want to know who is it that’s telling this story. While everyone else is being loud, maybe being so quiet stands out. The ad nails the emotions of feel myself, supported by honest, down-to earth values. 

Canadian Tire "bike ad"

This emotional ad from Canadian Tire ad makes me cry every time. We can all remember our first bike and how special it is. Canadian Tire is all about the emotions of comfort and being myself, supported by down-to-earth values, and feeling compassionate. 

Nike’s “If You Let Me Play”

Nike released this inspiration way back in 1995, outlining the benefits of having girls play sports. Brands such as Always “throw like a girl” were inspired by this type of message. The Nike brand continually nails the optimistic and freedom emotional space. This is such an emotional ad.

Bell "Dieppe"

Wow, a utility delivering an ad that gives you goosebumps. I have been to that beach in Dieppe and it does command such intense feelings. As you can tell from the phone at the end, this was in the early days of Cell phones, trying to link the idea of connecting anywhere. While this is just an ad, I do wish that utilities would try harder to connect with consumers at every stage of the consumer’s buying journey. This emotional ad does a great job in delivering feel myself supported by family values, honest, and down-to-earth. 

Budweiser 9/11 tribute

Aired only once, only a few months after 9/11 the context of this ad is paramount to the emotion. An amazing salute, by the brand, to the heroes of 9/11. The emotional ad does a great job delivering optimism and freedom. 

P&G “Thank you mom”

Back in the 2012 London Olympics, P&G was making an attempt at a Master Brand strategy. This is a highly emotional ad, that is a nice salute to moms around the world, whether your child is an Olympian, or not. While the kids might be optimistic, the emotions P&G links to their moms is comfort, nurturing and compassion. 


Always "Run like a girl"

The Always “Run like a girl” campaign is an inspirational and emotional ad that connects with true insight about the perception of how girls run changes as they hit puberty.  The ad starts by asking older teens and 20-somethings to run like a girl, and they depict a negative stereotypical overly feminine running style. Then, it asks 10-year-old girls to run like a girl, and they run in a highly athletic manner. It asks what changes to make the older girls see running as a negative. The ad challenges viewers to rethink their stereotypes. It inspires girls with an uplifting message to be themselves and encourages them to believe that, “running like a girl” is a good thing. The Always brand closely lines itself to the insights about the changes happening at puberty, just as moms and daughter will be choosing the feminine hygiene brand they will use. This campaign really delivers on optimism about a better future and the freedom from stereotypes. 

Nike "Find your greatness"

Aired during the 2012 Olympics, this highly emotional ad was a very high risk but also ran counter to all the athlete ads. There are many types of motivation, for some of us, Michael Jordan is the inspiration. Not all of us are Michael Jordan. This kid running is the average person that gets out there and makes it happen. My hope is that it inspires you with optimism, to get out there and “just do it”, on your own terms.

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