There is no shortage of studies attesting the crucial importance brand awareness has in swaying a consumer’s choice towards one product or another. We form the deepest attachments to products that speak to us on a personal level and a brand is supposed to do just that, to spark positive associations in our mind and encourage us to relate to it on a deeply personal level.

Even though there are fewer consensuses as to what makes a successful brand, many people in the industry would agree it hinges on nailing copywriting. And the best way to do that is to learn from the best.

So, without further ado, let’s have a look at 4 brands that totally nailed copywriting and at the strategies they used in some of their most effective campaigns.

1. Apple: Think Different

Apple’s iconic “Think Different” campaign serves to illustrate the importance of finding a strong central concept and building around it. Once you hit upon that core concept that you feel perfectly sums up your company’s identity and values, everything falls into place.

The 1997 campaign kicked off with an ad featuring short clips of influential 20th century figures, including the likes of Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, John Lennon or Pablo Picasso. The clips were accompanied by a voice-over commentary, read by Richard Dreyfuss, celebrating these people as rebellious, anti-establishment figures, whose boldness and insubordination brought about revolutionary change in the world. The ad ends with a small Apple logo at the end and the slogan “Think different” – the only clue as to what it is actually about.

Apple Think Different

It was followed by a series of black-and-white posters of the personalities featured in the ad (and other iconic figures), with the same logo and slogan. It is worth noting that neither the ad, nor the posters, gives any clue as to the identity of the people they represent. The viewer is expected to recognize them and, through that recognition, is encouraged to feel a sense of community with them. Through this campaign Apple effectively put across the notion that the company was at the forefront of a paradigm-shifting movement, providing a niche product that only the most discerning consumers would appreciate.

Another important lesson we can derive from this is that sharing cultural allusions can enhance the viewer’s sense of community and affinity with a particular brand, while implicitly commending him for being cultured enough to “get it”.

2. Macy’s: Believe

While Macy’s has the advantage that comes with a long-standing prestige brand, it’s been doing a great job of playing up the nostalgia factor, most notably through its running “Believe” campaign and its iconic “The Magic of Macy’s: 150 Years” ad.

Both were launched in 2008, when Macy’s celebrated its 150 anniversary. The “Believe” is based on the famous “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” editorial, published by the editor of the New York Sun in response to a letter from an eight-year-old girl who asked if Santa is real. Macy’s declared December 6 National Believe Day and, every year since 2008, it has invited “believers” to drop off their letters to Santa in the vintage-looking Santa Mail letterboxes awaiting them at any Macy’s store. And here is where the “Magic of Macy’s” comes in: the company vowed to donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, for every letter received, to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions. Not only is this a great way to spread the holiday cheer, but it’s also a surefire way to boost your social responsibility credentials.

The ad the company used to promote the “Believe” campaign exploits its association with Miracle on 34th Street, hardly surprising, as what the campaign proposed to do was to bank on Macy’s nostalgia capital. Its “The Magic of Macy’s: 150 Years” ad, featuring mentions of Macy’s in popular culture and evoking its involvement in the life of the community (the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, organized since 1924, and its contribution to the annual 4th of July fireworks display), served a similar purpose, reinforcing its association with solid American values.

The Magic of Macys

3. Target: Around for Good

While Target has a consistent history of developing original campaigns, the freshly launched “Around for Good” is its first ever campaign to focus on the company’s commitment to the community and to the environment. Through human interest, documentary-style ads like It Comes from the Heart, Target evokes ways it gives back to the community, through the programs it runs in schools and elsewhere. In the words of vice president Jeff Jones, the campaign is meant to build “brand love” and make buyers feel “they’re part of something bigger than a transaction”. This campaign, which “isn’t trying to sell you anything”, ties in neatly with the marketing strategy practiced through its online magazine, A Bullseye View, which is to focus on “behind the scenes” and lifestyle stories, rather than product pitches. This, in turn, is part of a wider trend in brand building, turning from old-school advertising to an approach that emphasizes the personal and social responsibility dimension.

4. Newcastle Brown Ale: Independence Eve

While Apple, Macy’s and Target resorted to high-brow cultural allusion, nostalgia and the human interest element, Newcastle Brown Ale’s distinctive ingredients are humor and self-irony. Its “Independence Eve” and “If We Made It” campaigns are excellent examples of clever, tongue-in-cheek copywriting. The “Independence Eve” campaign, launched this year, promoted the Newcastle Brown Ale brand to an American market by “hijacking” the momentum building around the Fourth of July and inviting people to join them in celebrating the alternative, entirely made-up, Independence Eve, on July 3. Alternatively promoted under the #IfWeWon hashtag, the campaign urges people to “imagine how great it could have been and imagine how much beer we could have sold. If we won.” In a series of hilarious spoof ads, featuring Brits Elizabeth Hurley and Stephen Merchant and American thespian Zachary Quinto, Newcastle Brown Ale revisits American trademarks and celebrates “all things British that Americans gave up when they signed the Declaration of Independence”. However, with tongue-in-cheek taglines like “If Britain had won the war, English Muffins would just be called ‘muffins’ and French Fries wouldn’t be spoken of” and “If the Brits ran this country, you would have one less reason to go to whichever Dakota Mount Rushmore is in”, good-humoredly poking fun at the Brits and Americans alike, it would be very hard to take offence at this campaign.

What Newcastle Brown Ale did through this campaign was to align itself with the finest tradition of British humor, which manages to strike a perfect balance between cheeky and self-deprecating, while tapping into the American public’s increasing fascination with all things British, from the British accent to British TV shows.

The same distinctive humor comes across in their “If We Made It” ad series, Newcastle Brown Ale’s spoof on the Super Bowl ads, as well as on the company’s Facebook page, with a cover picture that says “The Newcastle Facebook Place: Your Place to Complain About Our Ads”.

Independence Eve

To sum up, while top-notch copywriting comes in many flavors, these brands nailed it by creating their own distinctive flavor and identifying the ingredients best suited to bring out that flavor, whether it’s the equivalent of a high-end Asian fusion sushi bar, chestnuts roasted on an open fire, or English muffins with a side of British humor.


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