If you watched the 2013 Super Bowl, you probably saw the Dodge commercial, God Made a Farmer.
In short, the commercial was a montage of pictures of American farmers with Paul Harvey talking in the background. He said:
And on the eighth day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said I need a caretaker — So God made a Farmer.
God said I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk the cows, work all day in the field, milk cows again, eat supper then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board — So God made a Farmer.
God said I need somebody willing to sit up all night with and newborn colt, and watch it die, then dry his eyes and say maybe next year. I need somebody who can shape an axe handle from a persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, who can make a harness out of hay wire, feed sacks and shoe straps, who at planting time and harvest season will finish his forty hour week by Tuesday noon and then, paining from tractor back, will put in another 72 hours — So God made a Farmer.
God said I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bales, yet gentle enough to wean lambs and pigs and tend to pink combed pullets; who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the broken leg of a meadowlark. — So God Made a Farmer.
It had to be somebody who’d plow deep and straight and not cut corners; somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed, and rake and disk and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish the self-feeder and a hard week’s work with a five-mile drive to church.
Somebody who would bale a family together with the soft, strong bonds of sharing; who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply with smiling eyes when his son says he wants to spend his life doing what dad does — So God made a Farmer.
The ad ended simply with a picture of a Dodge truck in front of a farm with the text:
“To the farmer in all of us.” Then the screen faded to black with nothing other than the Dodge Ram logo displayed.
People I know raved about it. They loved it. They emailed it around to each other, posted it on each other’s Facebook walls, and re-Tweeted the link.
And just think: They did this all for a car commercial.
The question is: Why?
What made people care? And what made this commercial so different than the thousands of others they ignore? What called them to action?
See, if the God Made a Farmer commercial was being ignored like all the others, it would have (in a nutshell) sounded like this:
We are Dodge and we make great trucks.
They are perfect for farmers and the working man.
Want to buy one?
Give me a break. How inspiring is that?
But remember back, how did the commercial actually sound:
We believe in the value, virtue, and character of the American farmer.
We do so by making trucks that help them.
Want to buy one?
Now! That is more like it.
The reason that the second sounds better than the first is that people are called to action not when you throw features and options at them, people act when they have a shared belief.
People that I know, who were moved by the God Made a Farmer commercial, were moved because they are in and around farming and ranching. They know personally the man that is up before dawn, working all day, sitting up all night with a new colt and holding it while it dies – the man who is honest and true, and honored when his son turns out the same way. He is their father, brother, uncle, or best friend.
See, the Dodge commercial God Made a Farmerdid not explicitly try to sell you anything.
That is right. Watch it again. And let me say it again: The commercial did not ask you to buy something.
Sounds crazy for a commercial, right? But, while the commercial did not ask you to explicitly buy something it did, however, invite you to belong to something.
This way of marketing was articulated and made famous by author Simon Sinek in his book, It Starts with Why, and later by his hit video on TED.
Sinek says over and again, “People don’t buy what you do — They buy why you do it.”
He goes on to explain how belief drives behavior:
“These are the people who stood in line for six hours to buy an iPhone when they first came out, when you could have just walked into the store the next week and bought one off the shelf. These are the people who spent 40,000 dollars on flat screen TVs when they first came out, even though the technology was substandard. And, by the way, they didn’t do it because the technology was so great; they did it for themselves. It’s because they wanted to be first. People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it and what you do simply proves what you believe. In fact, people will do the things that prove what they believe. The reason that person bought the iPhone in the first six hours, stood in line for six hours, was because of what they believed about the world, and how they wanted everybody to see them: They were first. People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”
See it now? Behavior is driven by belief, not convenience, or options, or anything else.
Quoting Sinek again: “The goal is not to do business with everybody who needs what you have — The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe.”
That is why some people were moved by God Made a Farmer. The marketing message was: We believe what you believe. Want to join us?
That is how you inspire people with a 30-second car commercial.
That is how to sell a Dodge truck.