How To Drop The Hammer Of Sentimentality In Today’s Content Marketing Landscape



I don’t usually like to write blogs focused on a single event, but in this case I have to make an exception. Samsung just produced a masterclass on how to drop the hammer of sentimentality in today’s content marketing landscape. Boom – that’s the sound of the tears a comin’.

But you may not ever actually see this ad because it was aired in Turkey for a Turkish audience. Okay, enough teasing, watch it here:

So what did Samsung do that was so magical? In a single piece of content, they relate intimately to their audience and clearly demonstrate their value. This ad has two crucial ingredients that when used in tandem, create brilliant pieces of content marketing: sentimentality and utility.

Sentimentality in advertising often gets a bad rap, and for good reason. Tear-jerkers are traditionally films with no substance that simply get us all riled up by playing to our sense of pathos. Joy, grief, love, rage; we get it all but we only have to feel it for an hour or two. But when the film is over? It wasn’t really about anything in the first place, and the chances you ever go back to see it again or become a devotee of that director are slim to none.

The same is true for a lot of recent content marketing. Brands recognize that people want to see human qualities in the brands they associate with, but they don’t always know how to accomplish it. Right now, you have a whole lot of unnamed jewelry, fast food, and pharmaceutical companies showing you how to do it wrong. This means over the top representations of idealized emotions by actors none of us actually look like. It means verbal and visual hyperbole egging us on to a purchasing decision influenced by base emotions like hope or fear.

For most of us, if we end up making an emotionally-based purchasing decision, we sooner or later feel like we’ve been duped. Though there is a tear-jerker kind of quality to this Samsung ad, that’s not all there is to it. I don’t want to presume too much knowledge of current Turkish cultural attitudes, but I do think this ad is in the spirit of recent pro-democracy and populist movements among Turkey’s younger population. That is to say, I don’t care if he’s deaf or blind or whatever, I just want to communicate with him. This taps into true emotions and cultural tides, but really isn’t propagandistic in any way.

There are plenty of ads out there that that firmly tug the heartstrings but are lacking the crucial second ingredient: utility. Utility is clearly telling your audience what service you’re going to provide to them and why that’s going to be a good thing for them. In Samsung’s case, it’s extremely specific and clear. It’s not, we’re the tech company who cares, it’s – we are going to provide a service that makes communication easier for the hearing impaired with our products. That’s ultra-specific and it services a legitimate need with few other available options.

Another thing to keep in mind as a marketer is if it’s genuinely human, it’s genuinely shareable. You might have a boss who’s clamoring for your content to go viral. Samsung’s brass were probably thrilled to see that between March 8 and 16, there were a lot of tweets sent out about their ad, the overwhelming majority featuring words like “brilliant, amazing, beautiful.” It really is a touching ad, and one that many people are happy to share with their own friends and family. Brands, note that this content is inherently sweet. If your company’s goal is to have your content interacted with and shared, you’d be best served using inherently sweet stuff, not something bland that gets sugarcoated into emotional diabetes.

The point is that even if the content elicits a strong emotion, like sadness, joy, or sympathy, that shouldn’t be all it has to offer. The first thing that really struck me about that Samsung ad is just how effective it is in describing its purpose. The deaf person in the ad isn’t simply a foil for the overall audience’s presumed problem, just waiting around until the solution appears. It’s the actual product for the actual audience.

Now, are you going to be able to come up with a piece of content marketing this effective and impactful for every product you have? Probably not. But even primarily B2B businesses can benefit from this trend in advertising. Though your efforts in content marketing might not ever get called “brilliant, amazing, beautiful,” that doesn’t mean there isn’t an emotional connection to be made. B2B can have the inverse problem as many B2C businesses referenced earlier. While some B2Cs may be focusing too heavily on wrangling viewers with sentimentality, B2Bs often eschew any emotion whatsoever and focus completely on utility.

So, find a balance. Don’t tell me your tire pressure gauge is going to bring a smile to my face unless there’s some feature that really makes it true. But don’t assume that your product can’t connect to people’s emotions because the product is not inherently romantic. It’s up to you to know your product and your audience equally, and respect them both as well. Whether your content goes “viral” or not is neither here nor there. It’s about whether your content has a good blend of sentimentality and utility that clearly communicates value to your audience.


Reprinted by permission

Image Credit: CC by friend five


About the author: Dylan Thaemert

Dylan Thaemert is Social Engagement Manager at Social Media Contractors. He graduated from Loyola University Chicago, where he earned his B.A. in English, specializing in Creative Writing.

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