Advertisers know that sentiment is one of the best ways to sell a product. If they tell a story that tugs at the heart-strings, people are more likely to choose their product. Even if the story is a little, well, bizarre.
In the 80’s, one of the most well-known ads was for Impulse Body Spray. A beautiful woman walks down the street unaware of a man she’s passed. He sniffs the air and immediately starts running after her, stopping at a flower vendor along the way.
The tag line said, “When a man you’ve never met before suddenly gives you flowers … it’s Impulse.” What could be more romantic?
Women swooned. Men were incredulous. Could this ever happen in real life? Well, I once had a guy admit to following me for five blocks before he finally approached me. It was sweet. But creepy.
I took the long route home.
How is it that TV can make the most bizarre scenarios seem totally plausible? Even appealing?
Tim Horton’s has become a pro at connecting with our sentimental side. A recent “Warm Wishes” commercial shut down a Fort Frances outlet last December. Tim’s sent in workers overnight to drape red wool on every piece of furniture and the coffee cups before putting a giant red toque on the roof.
They then wrapped a string of red yarn through neighbourhoods, around park benches and trees. This lead residents to the restaurant where everyone gathered.
The idea was to spread warmth in what was, according to the ad, “one of the coldest places in Canada.” Consumers loved it.
Except the temperature was a balmy 1 Celsius that day. This guerilla marketing tactic got people there out of curiosity. They stayed because the coffee was free and cameras were rolling.
Tim’s most recent dive into the schmaltz was based on a true story of a couple cleaning out her parents’ garage in preparation of selling their home. (The key words are “based on,” not a word-for-word re-telling of the tale.)
She looks around remembering her childhood there. Suddenly, they find a box of old coffee cups with momentous dates written on them: the day they moved in, the day she got engaged.
Apparently, they had Tim’s every time. So according to the commercial, every cup tells a lovely family story.
But while the ad shows pristine cups, we’re talking about old used disposable coffee cups – the ones with soggy chewed rims and stains in the bottom that most of us toss in the garbage. Instead of taking a photo to mark the occasion, her obsessive-compulsive hoarder father has held on to a box of germ-infested mementos.
Yet, when we watch these ads, we can’t help but be swept away by the sentiment. Let’s face it, television is full of negative news and hard-sell advertising. So a bit of the warm and fuzzy goes a long way to reminding us of the positives in life.
Even if it’s in a mouldy coffee cup.