Chevrolet’s recently released feel-good holiday video will surely bring misty eyes to even the most Scroogey. But, in their effort to spread holiday cheer, they buried the brand in the wave of negative emotion.

You really need to see the ad.  The storyline, cinematography, and production are first-rate, and they keep you engaged to the tear-inducing end.


And therein lies the problem. Triggering emotions, love, anger, sentimentality, humor…, are essential to messaging that breaks through the mundane. But diving too deep into the emotional well can overwhelm a message to the point it fails to serve the messenger.

Several years ago, a life insurance company ran an ad campaign that opened with the sound of a heart monitor. After a few beeps, it flatlines, and an authoritative voice tells you your family will suffer because you didn’t buy life insurance, and now it’s too late. The weight of the opening was so heavy that nobody heard a word that followed, and the campaign failed.

The Chevy ad puts a flicker of joy in a cloud of sorrow. By the end of the 5-minute vignette, most viewers are too teary-eyed to make any association between the message and the brand other than it made them cry. It may be good entertainment, but it fails at brand development.

Chevy deserves high marks for attempting something not bathed in beige. Most advertising is designed to conform to the norm and not to offend, and not just at GM. Most Brand Managers, Chief Marketing Officers, and CEOs are more concerned with playing it safe and fitting in than doing something bold and getting attention. Ads look and sound like ads. Beige runs deep.

But being bold won’t ensure you are loved.

Great companies are great because they have authentic stories that people believe in, stories that live in the hearts and minds of potential customers before they ever do business with them. Did you catch that? Great companies have a story that lives in people they’ve never met!

Your story, your brand.

Your brand isn’t your name; it’s the emotions, goodwill, trust, integrity… all the feelings people associate with your company. Your brand is a product of your company culture and the culmination of what others say about you (your reputation) and the stories you tell (your advertising).

Your brand is your most valuable asset, more than your equipment, your intellectual property, your capital, or your book of business. The strength of your brand is the chief indicator of your future profitability and resilience, and it should be protected at all costs!

Strong brands don’t evolve. They are intentionally crafted and carefully managed.

If you aren’t confident in the strength of your brand or if you need help telling your story in a powerful and engaging way that makes your company the one people think of first and feel the best about, let’s talk.