Values Over Volume

The Nike ad featuring 80-year-old runner, Walt Stack, was more about grit than running shoes and spoke to the heart rather than the pocketbook. Photo Credit: AP Photo/ Eric RisbergAdvertising can be faulted for failing to state a product's value proposition. But ads also can fail to speak to the hearts of consumers about values.

Digital media has created headaches for advertising executives. Content marketing has confounded them. But in some ways, the revolution in technology has released advertising from its own boundaries.

People don't "believe" advertising, so it makes little sense to pound away at your value proposition. Even Wal-Mart has shifted its advertising from a bouncing yellow ball knocking over price tags on its shelves to ads featuring customers "discovering" they can buy what they need at a lower cost than a competitor store. Same message, but very different context.

In a blog post published by, Chad Cipoletti argues that sometimes it is better for advertising to sell values than products. He cites the 1988 Nike ad showing 80-year-old Walt Stack on his daily run. As he crosses the Golden Gate Bridge, Stack says, "I run 17 miles every morning. People ask me how I keep my teeth from chattering in the wintertime. I leave them in my locker." 

That's an ad about grit, not athletic shoes, Cipoletti says. It associates Nike with self-belief, a key reason why someone would need a good pair of running shoes in the first place.

The same blog contains another example of Moleskin, which makes notebooks. There isn't much difference between one notebook and another, so Moleskin focuses on why you need a notebook — a convenient place for personal expression.

This parallels Starbucks that markets the experience of drinking coffee as much as the coffee itself.

Advertising and content marketing share a common need to attract viewers by their value, not their volume. It is hard in 30 seconds to show why your product is great and better than the other guy's. But it is long enough to win the heart of a consumer by showing the path to where they want to go.