audi super bowl ad 2013
As is increasingly common, Audi has posted its 2013 Super Bowl “Prom” commercial for public viewing before it airs during the big game. The plot is simple enough, as you’ll see:

Television commercials should never be confused with documentaries, but in this case Audi’s ad does illustrate a basic truth: the brands and products we use affect how we feel about ourselves. Though greatly exaggerated, the transformation of the meek and insecure high school student into a much more confident self after driving the Audi S6 isn’t without basis in fact.

Brands can change self-perception

Victoria's SecretIn a fascinating paper, University of Minnesota researchers Ji Kyung Park and Deborah Roedder John demonstrated that brand personalities did indeed rub off on many people. Women who walked around a shopping mall carrying a Victoria’s Secret bag felt better looking, more feminine, and more glamorous after doing so vs. women who carried plain pink shopping bags. Similarly, MBA students perceived themselves as being more intelligent, more of a leader, and harder working after using an MIT pen vs. an unbranded pen.

Now, there’s one caution – the effect didn’t work on everyone. “Incremental theorists,” people who think their personal qualities can be changed and improve themselves through their own efforts, weren’t affected by using the branded product. “Entity theorists,” on the other hand, believe their personal qualities are largely fixed; this group was affected most by the brand they used.

So, if you assume that the kid in the Audi commercial starts off with a largely fatalistic view of his personal characteristics, he’d be an entity theorist. And, he’d be precisely the personality type to get a confidence boost if he perceived the Audi S6 to be a macho vehicle – truth (sort of) in advertising!

What’s Your Brand Personality?

There’s a message for all marketers in this. Your brand will actually change the way some of your customers feel about themselves. Even those customers that aren’t susceptible to changes in self-perception may still buy it because they identify with the brand personality. Or, they may want to use your brand to send a signal to others. Regardless, if you can shape your brand’s (or product’s) personality to be what your potential customers aspire to be, you’ll have a winner!

That aside, what do you think of this Audi commercial? Is Prom Super Bowl worthy? Do you have a different favorite among the early releases this year? Leave a comment!