The Greatest Commercials of Today, and Why
The minute I watched the Ted Talk I was hooked. Add in the book, a few additional YouTube videos of charismatic and compelling speeches, and timely discussions with friends and I’ve officially become obsessed. Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why” framework has compelled me to change the way I think about many things spanning from work to life at home.
“Every single person — every single organization — on the planet knows what they do,” Sinek’s argument starts. “Some know how they do it,” he continues. “That’s your value proposition, or whatever you call it. But very very few people or organizations know why they do what they do.”
Sinek goes on to dig into the cross-section of the human brain to reinforce this idea that the why is the most crucial and primary element of any organization. The area of our brain that relates to the what and how is the newest portion of the human brain called the neo-cortex. This is the area that controls language and executive functioning, the tough stuff. The limbic portion of the brain, on the other hand, controls emotions and drives decision making but doesn’t control language. This is a crucial point; it’s why we so often make decisions we just can’t explain at all, leading us to utter phrases such as “it just feels right.” Take Sinek’s example of marriage:
We struggle to put into words the real reasons why we love [our spouses], so we talk around it or rationalize it. “She’s funny, she’s smart,” we start. But there are lots of funny and smart people in the world, but we don’t love them and we don’t want to marry them. There is obviously more to falling in love than just personality and competence. Rationally, we know our explanation isn’t the real reason. It is how our loved ones make us feel, but those feelings are really hard to put into words.
Sinek makes the argument that for companies to separate themselves, they must establish a clear why before anything else. Why do we exist? They must answer. He uses Apple as an example. Perhaps you’re old enough to remember the iconic “1984” commercial, or you were shown it at one point or another. The commercial has nothing to say about sleek product functionality or innovative technology. We don’t learn anything interesting about what Apple does or how they do it. All the commercial does is show us that Apple is interested in boldly challenging the status quo, thinking different. This, not anything else about Apple, is principally responsible for its massive success. This is Apple’s why. It has built a loyal following, millions upon millions of people who are willing to stand in long lines and promote their products for free and pay a premium just to be a part of the club.
This stuff is blowing my mind. I wanted to write about TV commercials I loved, but I didn’t know where to take it until this past Tuesday when I was reading Start With Why and it hit me: the commercials, and by association companies, that tell compelling stories with their advertising, that invite us into the “club,” are the commercials that stand out and make a difference. These are the companies that are starting with why and are gathering a loyal following. Here are three of my favorites that you may have seen on the air today:
Geico: Aerobics from a Recliner
Ok, so you could argue this commercial gives you a dose of “what,” by announcing the product features in the very beginning. But that’s not what makes this commercial great, and it isn’t what is moving the needle for Geico. It’s the ridiculous, memorable analogies they make, like “It’s so easy, a caveman could do it,” and “Geico is like doing aerobics from a recliner.” Not only do we all want life to be easy and simple, the advent and acceleration of technology has created the expectation that things will be easy and simple. Why shouldn’t they be? Geico plays to this idea and anyone who subscribes to it. As I am now also a Geico customer, I always watch these commercials with an added sense of glee. I feel like I’m a part of the club and I’m not unnecessarily complicating my life. It’s not just easy; it’s GEICO easy.
Bud Lights for Everyone
I’ve watched this one so many times and it gets better every time. In a medieval feel, the King walks into a bar entitled “The Clumsy Sword,” followed by a knight in full-on Bud Light blue armor. The King enthusiastically yells, “Barkeep: Bud Lights for Everyone!” and everyone responds with the now familiar phrase, “dilly dilly!” A dude sitting alone in the front corner of the bar responds, with the most amazing accent, “Actually – I prefer a nice mead.” The way he puts his finger up and elongates the word meeaaadd is what gets me here. He continues with more specific requests, the place goes silent, and the medieval music stops. Next thing we know, he’s getting kicked out and chained up. Like being a Geico customer, living in St. Louis, the home of Budweiser, makes me laugh and appreciate this every single time. The message of this commercial is clear: if you drink Bud Light, you’re one of us, and we are the many. You won’t have to sit alone. Dilly Dilly.
Microsoft XBox Holiday Ad
If you haven’t seen this one yet, stop reading, grab a tissue, and take the time to watch it.
This commercial isn’t good, it’s fantastic. A young boy runs out of his house, gathers up a bunch of friends yelling “He’s gonna do it! Owen’s gonna do it!” and they enthusiastically gather to watch 9-and-a-half year old Owen, who, according to Microsoft, has Escobar Syndrome, which limits his mobility. Owen sits in his wheelchair, concentrated on the television, using Xbox’s new Adaptive Controller. When he wins the game, all the kids around him jump up and down and celebrate with him. Owen spins around in his wheelchair. A kid furiously does the “floss” dance move. The tagline that appears next couldn’t be more perfect: When everybody plays, we all win.
One of the YouTube comments is particularly interesting:
”Playstation is the best place to play”.. No.. No I don’t think so.. Well done Microsoft <3
The ad doesn’t mention Playstation, nor does it aim to show us that what it makes is better than Playstation, or that how it does it is superior. Some commercials knock rivals; this isn’t one of them. The commercial calls us into a greater why, that of inclusion, inviting us into a world where everyone belongs and where a kid like Owen is the hero. Who doesn't want to live in that world?