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What makes a good brand ad

by team Holly & Co


Just do it. Three words that helped define a brand for decades and prompted millions of customers to choose Nike’s running shoes over others. Why? It solved a customer problem and connected with us emotionally. These ads didn’t say anything about the trainers themselves or even what made them better. It positioned the brand as being one that helped you become a champion no matter who you were; to drive you beyond your limits. People liked this so they chose Nike over the competition — and kept coming back. Nike then told the same story consistently over and over again, and everything they did lived up to it.

Yes, people need to know what you’re selling. But these days, people are more aware of brands than ever before. They want to know whether or not they should align themselves with you. Understandably, many small businesses use what little advertising budget we do have on promoting our products or services with regular advertising. However brand advertising can be extremely effective in making a deep, long-term connection with customers and crucially, encourage them to choose you over the competition. But before we get into how to make one, let’s firstly look at…

The benefits of having a strong brand

People buy from brands they trust – 70% of consumers say that trusting a brand today is more important than in the past, a belief that’s shared across age groups, gender, and income¹

This doesn’t just apply to the big guns either. Many small businesses understand the importance of this. Gemma from Muthahood is super clear on what she stands for with her Strong Girls Club, for example. The message runs consistently through every touchpoint and resonates with a wide audience who don’t just like her products, but share her point of view and actively support it. This has helped her grow her audience. What you’re selling, the price and quality of it, and the service you provide, will undoubtedly come into the equation. But your brand is what will keep people coming back over the long-term. It’s also likely to encourage more word-of-mouth referrals and boost engagement, too. 

So how do you go about creating a good brand ad?

Firstly, make sure you have a good brand. Ask yourself, if your brand was a person, what type of person would it be? It’s much more than a logo or a strapline. It’s how people think of you, your whole personality and what you stand for — and importantly, what shopping with you says about them. It’s important to think about what customers are thinking about.

What’s at the heart of your business? Is it the story of how you got to where you are that people might connect with? Is it making them smile? Are you led by sustainability? Maybe you’re a social enterprise that champions community and inclusivity? It doesn’t have to be a higher purpose but it’s worth noting that these days, 80% of consumers want brands to solve society’s problems and be a positive force in shaping culture².

Good brands are authentic

People need to trust and invest in your brand, not just your product or service, especially if you’re a small business. People are less likely to have heard of you so need to know who they’re buying from, to build a long-term relationship with you and keep connecting with you emotionally and intellectually over time. You’re at a great advantage in some ways because you’ll likely have a closer connection to your customers than a larger brand and you can maintain that authenticity as you grow. Let this authenticity shine through. 

Good brands stand out from the crowd

Customers also need to remember your brand in an era when we’re bombarded with adverts and information. It’s important to check you don’t look and sound like everyone else. Surprise them. If they could buy the same product for the same price from two different places, what would make them choose you?

People buy from brands they trust – 70% of consumers say that trusting a brand today is more important than in the past, a belief that’s shared across age groups, gender, and income¹.

Good brands are consistent

People need to be reminded of you often. Keep telling them what you stand for. Keep showing them what you look like. Keep saying what you always say that reminds them why they like you. Think about consistency with colour schemes, fonts, and imagery. Are you going to build your messaging over a series of posts that can be seen as a set on your grid? Or perhaps you can post periodically using a template that people come to recognise? When he was a guest on Holly’s Conversations of Inspiration podcast the brilliant David Hieatt (Co-founder of Howies, the DO Lectures, and Hiut Denim Co.) said, “Every great brand is a story well told”. He also said that he tells the same story over and over so people know it well. It’s familiar and they trust it — and therefore you. 

Good brands make you feel something

‘Brand’ is what helps you create a real connection with the customer. How can you make people feel something? If people feel something for you, they’ll want to shop from you. That’s what you want your brand advertising to do.

Good brands live up to their word

Bloom & Wild are a great example of this. Their brand is all about being thoughtful. So they don’t just talk about it, they act thoughtfully too by being the first to ask if people want to opt out of Father’s Day emails in case they find them upsetting, for example. Or they avoid selling red roses on Valentine’s Day. Good brands put their money where their mouth is, and make sure customers know they’re true to their word. They do this through their marketing.

How will you get this across to people?

Generally as small businesses, we don’t have the budget for TV advertising or big press campaigns. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t create your own brand ads. It could be as simple as making some social posts that are purely focused on the main message of your brand. Email’s a great way to share brand advertising, too. It’s a cost-effective method of reaching your whole database and reminding them not just about your products or services, but about you. Or with millions of people choosing video as their medium of choice these days, could you make a short film to share your values perhaps? 

Outside of the digital world, think about what items you drop into orders. If you have branded postcards, could you perhaps make them into beautiful mailings that people actually want to post to friends? If you have a shop rather than solely an online business, could you create cards that you can keep by the till to remind shoppers of your values? Printed mail-outs can be expensive but they can be charming and offer a return on investment when done well. You could send them to certain customer segments like new customers who have only purchased once or customers who haven’t been back after a year. Always return to what is unique about your brand and remind customers of what they get from you that they can’t get elsewhere. 

Whatever medium you choose to use, brand advertising is a powerful tool to add into your marketing mix. If you want to build relationships with customers long term, brand advertising can really help. 

Ask yourself, if your brand was a person, what type of person would it be? It’s much more than a logo or a strapline. It’s how people think of you, your whole personality and what you stand for — and importantly, what shopping with you says about them.

Key takeaways:

1. Brand ads can be just as important for your business as product or service ads: As more and more people care about brands and what they stand for, you need to make sure people are as clear on your values and personality as they are on what you sell. 

2. Use your communications to reconfirm your brand and its values: What is the story at the heart of your brand and how can you get this across? How can you make sure people see you in an authentic, differentiated, consistent, emotive and trustworthy way?

3. Choose the medium you’d like to use to get the message out there: From social posts or email, to video and postcards, there are many different ways to get your brand messaging out there. Think how you can use the same visual or tonal clues across them to build brand recall.  

4. Keep the conversation going: How do you keep reminding your customers about who you are and what you do in fun, engaging formats? Keep finding fresh ways to tell the same story. And good luck. If you get your brand advertising right, it can transform your business. 


1 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: In Brands We Trust? 2020

2Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: In Brands We Trust? 2020

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