Would you trade in your iPhone for a Google Pixel?

What if I told you that it was water-resistant? What if I told you it uses the latest Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 835 processor? What if I told you its battery could last 7 hours on a 15-minute charge?

Still no? Exactly.

When marketers at Google set out to drive sales for the Pixel 2, they were up against what seemed like an insurmountable obstacle: we don’t buy smartphones by the numbers.

What drives us to choose Apple or Google or Samsung has little to do with the actual hardware or software. We don’t make smartphone purchases logically— we make them emotionally.

So with the Pixel 2 set to launch, Google decided to pivot to a new approach towards marketing their smartphone. Instead of listing features or barraging audiences with hardware glamor shots, the brand created a full funnel campaign that was designed to capture our hearts, then capture our wallets: starting on Youtube.

Spoiler alert: they were massively successful. ⅓ of US Millennials saw it. Google searches for “pixel camera” rose by 145%. The clickthrough rate to the purchase site was 113% higher than average.

The “Question Your Lens” campaign shines a brilliant spotlight on the real mental health issues that happen beyond the photos and videos we share to social media every day. The hero video, which you can view below, smartly placed as a Youtube masthead across desktop and mobile as well as on traditional TV during the Grammys, shows half a dozen smiling stories, as told through pictures taken on the Pixel 2.


Disparate and interesting, each character is happy and excited in their photos. We only learn what unites them in the last seconds: each of our smiling protagonists is here today because they called the Suicide Prevention Lifeline to help them choose life.

Despite the flawless lives that are depicted on Instagram, depression diagnoses are up 48% among Millennials, and the suicide rate for young adults has tripled since the 1950s. In a way, “Question Your Lens” doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know: social media doesn’t tell the whole story. However, Google’s careful handling of mental health issues paired with stunning photos of real people and a partnership with suicidepreventionlifeline.org made the brand shine in a sea of corporations who are unwilling to tackle real problems.

After the hero video grabbed people’s attention, Google served :15 and :06 second cut downs that hit more heavily on the Pixel 2’s camera capabilities. When consumers finally searched for the phone on Google, sales-driven search ads drove them to the retail site. All in all, Google was able to reduce the sales funnel— typically a weeks- to months-long process— down to just a few days.

What brands can learn from this is clear: when it comes to developing a narrative, choose a meaningful story— and make product an accessory, not a centerpiece.

In the Pixel 2 hero video, the title card reads “The following are real people captured by the Google PIxel 2.” From there, the product is never seen or mentioned again.

Most brands are reluctant to embrace this tactic. Concerned with listing benefits, ingredients, and having instant name recognition, the directive is usually straightforward and narrow-minded: highlight the product, and make sure it’s heavily featured within the first 6-seconds.

Younger audiences, however, are more likely to be drawn in by a strong emotional story than product benefits— a notion that is well-evidenced by the trend towards branded content video production.

Vice and Smirnoff’s “equalizing music” campaign successfully highlighted the lack of female DJs in electronic music and helped to solve the problem; a smart choice, considering 90% of millennials would switch brands in favor of one that supports a cause. Watch the teaser below:


Fatherly + Airbnb created a video series that highlighted incredible travel destinations, but also the significance of the family bonding moments that a trip can spark.

Heineken’s “Worlds Apart” famously sparked conversations between people with differing social and political views, bringing them together over a beer.


All of these highly successful campaigns– each of which went incredibly viral– used their products as a device to tell important stories and showcase their brand’s core values.

When companies are faced with putting a stake in the ground on conversations that feel controversial or political, the idea of alienating any consumer is often enough to make them choose a different path.

But in taking a moral stance, brands can connect with consumers incredibly deeply, creating a passionate, mobilized base in a way that cruising the middle of the road never could.

So, know who you are. Take a stand. Embrace the risk. Create content that matters, and your product will sell.