Four Stars On Zero Budget: ScotRail Keep It Simple


Your Ticket Goes Further Than You Think


Amidst the endless debates about “Brand Purpose”, it’s worth remembering that there’s very little new about brands wanting to showcase the good they do. Under its less sexy name ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’, brands have for decades quietly put out ads touting their charity work, their links to the communities they operate in, and other ways in which they’re a boon to society.

Like any style of ad, this can easily be done badly. We’ve all seen the ads for businesses where a voice straight off a speakerphone boasts of a company’s record over stock footage of wind turbines. But ads about the good a business does can also be done well and effectively, touching the customer’s emotions in a way that makes them feel they too have a stake in what the brand is doing.

This spot for ScotRail is one of those old-school corporate social responsibility ads. It’s also a very good one, putting human faces on corporate initiatives and making viewers feel they’re contributing to positive outcomes.

The ad focuses on the small businesses that operate inside ScotRail stations, from coffee and snack kiosks to the long-standing second-hand bookshop that operates in Wemyss Bay Station. We hear from the real people behind those businesses who tell the story of how ScotRail have supported them. It turns an item on the balance sheet into something a bit more meaningful, and it pushes the emotional response up for viewers – to a strong 4.1-Stars.

What’s more, the ad ends by reminding people that if they’re a ScotRail customer, some of their ticket price is going towards supporting these local community businesses. While a small minority react badly to that idea – we see an undercurrent of Contempt on the emotional response trace – most people watching the ad are happy.

It helps, too, that this is clearly not an ad ScotRail spent a lot of money on. One of the big perils of the corporate social responsibility ad is a perception that customers’ money is being spent on lavish PR efforts rather than invested or passed on in savings. Nobody is going to come away from this ad feeling that ScotRail have wasted anyone’s money – it’s a very simple affair and even some of the shots are repeated.

The lesson is that you don’t have to make a high budget blockbuster ad to prove you care as a brand. You can let the people you’ve helped tell their own stories in simple language and end up with just as powerful an emotional effect.

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