When it comes to marketing automobiles, conversations often revolve around horsepower, specifications, and the like. However, the average consumer seeks more than just mechanical details. The desire is simple: a smooth journey to their destination. Amidst a sea of predictable car ads, a select few brands stand out by opting for creativity rather than relatability — but does it pay off?
There’s a good reason as to why commercials tend to aim to be relatable to their audience. Viewers tend to remember and respond favorably to ads that resonate well with them, which in turn boosts campaign success. However, there are a few unique commercials that have broken the mold; and spoiler alert, they’ve enjoyed quite a bit of success. We use Sphere’s Ad Benchmarking app to find out how they did it:
Designed to showcase the stability of the Volvo FM trucks, this 2013 commercial sees the iconic Jean-Claude Van Damme executing his iconic split while standing on the wing mirrors between two moving trucks.
While the ad scored high on industry fit (82%) and creativity (83%) on Ad Benchmarking, it only had a relatability score of 4%. After all, a man performing a gravity-defying split on moving vehicles isn’t exactly an everyday occurrence for the average person.
But it worked. It amassed 25 million views within a week, and reached a staggering 40 million in just nine days. By 2014, it was estimated to have brought in about $170 million in revenue for the company. Because of its unique nature, the commercial stood out and lingered in the minds of its viewers long after it was aired.
This extraordinary display of ad creativity also made two particular brand values shine through. Unconventionality and Connection were the top values detected by the AI, which are uncommon for ads in the automotive industry.
These values are a testament to the ad’s ability to foster a distinct bond with its viewers through its memorability, compelling narrative, celebrity endorsement, and let’s face it — sheer daringness.
While the subject matter may not align with everyday experiences, these elements collectively created a memorable and impactful connection that extended beyond the boundaries of conventional relatability.
Let’s take a look at another ad that Ad Benchmarking scored even lower on relatability:
With a relatability score of 1%, this ad features an exciting and magical car chase across the streets of Italy. The Mini Countryman glides smoothly and evades capture in a whimsical, almost fairy-tale-like pursuit. This fantastical setting makes the ad far from relatable. Instead, it captivates audiences with vibrant storytelling and the thrilling promise of adventure.
On the other hand, the ad's creativity (90%) and industry fit (89%) were remarkably high. These scores highlight a crucial insight: while viewers may not directly relate to the fantastical elements of the ad, the excitement and sense of adventure resonate deeply.
Moreover, Sphere’s AI detected that the top brand values present in the video were “Rebel” and “Adventure”, suggesting that the ad was successful in reinforcing Mini Cooper's brand identity as fun, dynamic, and adventurous.
Overall, these two commercials vividly illustrate that the power of an ad lies not just in its relatability, but also in its ability to stand out and forge a unique connection with the audience. They serve as bold reminders that sometimes, the most memorable connections are formed by daring to be different; the ability to distinguish oneself and establish a distinctive connection can be equally, if not more, valuable than adhering to conventional norms of relatability.
So, does relatability matter in advertising? The answer is nuanced. While it certainly plays a significant role in many successful campaigns, these instances show that it's not always the key ingredient. In the realm of automotive advertising where innovation and experience are paramount, creating a lasting impression revolving around consumers’ desires can be just as important, if not more so.