Storytelling in commercials: A look at nonliteral branding videos

commercial wk2 collage

Brands use storytelling to engage and connect on an emotional level with audiences.  The following three commercials are analyzed with regard to its emotional appeal of consumers’ wants, needs, and desires while also informing consumers about the brands’ products or services.

The art of storytelling is a powerful tool to intrigue, engage, and connect emotionally with audiences.  At its core, marketing is storytelling.  In branding, especially in the branding video, marketers are the storytellers and their job is to turn the audience into heroes (Reed College of Media, 2015).  Simplifying a brand comes down to three key words which describes the brand position that “is the guiding principle for the entire marketing effort” (O’Keefe, 2007).  With the regard to the commercials analyzed below, each brand’s story “approaches a brand positioning statement, capturing the ‘what we’re about’ or ‘what we want people to know about us’ in as few words as possible” (Reed College of Media, 2015). The following three commercials take audiences on an emotional journey appealing to their wants, needs, and desires while simultaneously telling consumers about the brand’s product or service.

Commercial 1: “Puppy Love” by Budweiser

Plot Summary

“Puppy love” tells the heartwarming story of an adorable Golden Retriever puppy waiting to be adopted along with his brothers and sisters.  Day-after-day he manages to escape to be with his new best friend – a Clydesdale horse at a neighboring farm.  Over time, the puppy and the Clydesdale build a delightfully strong, unique bond.  However, to the audiences dismay the puppy is taken back home after every time he escapes.  In the end, the puppy and Clydesdale are reunited and playing together in what looks like a more permanent home on the farm.

Creative Strategy

Budweiser packs an emotional punch with this special friendship between two unlikely friends that sends audiences on a tear-jerking rollercoaster.  “The commercial aims straight for the heart of the audience and hits the sweet spot” (Wayshak, 2014).  This is a great example of how a brand does not have to showcase its products to emotionally connect with the audience.

Brand Positioning Statement

The brand positioning statement for Budweiser’s “Puppy love” commercial would be “Drinking a Budweiser beer is better when you enjoy it with your best friend.”  #BestBuds.

Commercial 2: “The Unlikely Leading Lady” by American Express

Plot Summary

American Express’ “The unlikely leading lady” commercial begins with a young woman who is shown getting ready for the day.  Audiences see the woman’s daily routine from waking up after the first blare of the alarm clock and doing sit-ups just before grabbing a handful of jelly beans to showering and picking out her clothes and driving to her destination.  While she is getting ready, the woman is narrating how she was told she would not make it big in Hollywood and in the last scene she is shown proving them wrong as she appears to be directing a film.

Creative Strategy

At some point in an individual’s life he or she has been told they cannot do something and that only fuels the fire to prove naysayers wrong.  American Express capitalized on this common notion of people who battle adversity with anticipation to “forge a connection between the audience and the brand’s offerings” (Gianatasio, 2015).  Ultimately, American Express reminds the audience that “the journey never stops,” positioning its products and services as helpful tools to have along the way (Gianatasio, 2015).  Not once did audiences see an American Express credit card in the commercial, but it was not necessary in effectively promoting the service.

Brand Positioning Statement

The brand positioning statement for American Express’ “The unlikely leading lady” commercial can be summed up as, “No matter what journey you take in life, an American Express credit card will always be there when you need to pay for items needed along the way.” #JourneyNeverStops

Commercial 3: “Home’s Best Friend” by Coldwell Banker

Plot Summary

A somber tune belts out at the beginning of Coldwell Banker’s “Home’s best friend” commercial.  Various dogs are shown with sad, lonely, and depressed dispositions as they each stare out the window patiently waiting for their owners to return home.  Halfway through the commercial, the beep-beep of a car alarm signals the owners have arrived at home and the front door opens which immediately excites every dog at their respective home.  The music tempo shifts to a more upbeat and lively tune, and the dogs quickly perk up, changing their temperament from sad and lonely to animated and happy.  The dog owners finally greet their long-awaited four-legged friends and the duos could not be any happier to feel at home with one another.

Creative Strategy

Coldwell Banker’s strategy showcases its commitment to delivering all the comforts of home.  Home is where the heart is…or where you are most happy with your life companion and best friend – your dog.  Coldwell Banker elicits the warm and fuzzy feel-good vibes that make you want to choose its brand when you are looking to purchase your next home.

Brand Positioning Statement

Lastly, an appropriate brand positioning statement for Coldwell Banker’s “Home’s best friend” might say, “There is no place like home and Coldwell Banker can help you find your home that is perfect for you and your dog –one of life’s most satisfying and comforting feelings that make consumers happy.” #WhereHomeBegins

Brands often utilize storytelling to drive a deeper engagement with its consumers.  The three commercials mentioned above are great examples of how brands successfully use storytelling to acquire audience’s attention while promoting its products and services.  An intriguing quote about the power of stories states that “storytelling is like opening a window into the minds of the listeners” (Buvala, n.d.).  Opening the minds of these listeners is imperative when brands attempt to establish an emotional connection with its audience.  Marketers often achieve this relationship building by communicating through powerful stories.


American Express. (2015, February 18). Mindy Kaling’s Journey: The unlikely leading lady [YouTube video]. Retrieved from

Budweiser. (2014, January 29). Budweiser Super Bowl XLVIII commercial — “Puppy love” [YouTube video]. Retrieved from

Buvala, K. (n.d.). What are the benefits of storytelling? Retrieved from

Coldwell Banker Real Estate. (2015, February 11). 2015 Coldwell Banker TV commercial: Home’s best friend [YouTube video]. Retrieved from

Gianatasio, D. (2015, February 24). Stars Trace Their Path to Success in Ogilvy’s Grand New American Express Campaign ‘the journey never stops.’ Retrieved from

O’Keefe, R. (2007). WHHSH story. Travel Marketing Decisions, 1-5. Retrieved from

Reed College of Media. (2015, March 16). Lesson 2: Stories. Retrieved from

Wayshak, M. (2014, January 31). What you could learn from Budweiser’s heart-melting ad. Retrieved from



One thought on “Storytelling in commercials: A look at nonliteral branding videos

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s