In many ways the Super Bowl is an “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” breeding ground for brands. It’s a platform to prove who’s the biggest and who’s the best, and top brands are pulling out all the stops – and all the dollars – not just to win customers, but to win all of the buzz surrounding the iconic event.
But when you get past all of the big budgets, bells and whistles, there’s a lot marketers can learn from these top brands and apply it on a smaller scale.
Takeaway 1: What a brand stands for is sometimes more important than what a brand’s selling
Why it worked: Always captured a sad truth about how the world views girls and women – but quickly showed a hopeful side through fresh, youthful faces. It proved the negative construct of “like a girl” is created socially – and doesn’t reach girls until they’re teenagers, leaving a window of opportunity to fix it.
Put it into practice: Remember, Always sells tampons and pads. But if the commercial simply spoke to the efficacy of those products, would anyone still be talking about it?
Every brand sells to a demographic, and every demographic has social issues they care about. Pinpoint what those are, and speak to the hopeful side through blog posts, curated content, videos and imagery. Your brand will quickly become a partner in social change rather than a sales pitch. In the digital and social era, the former has become much more effective when it comes to actually driving revenue.
Takeaway 2: Rewrite history through a new lens
Why it worked: There was nothing humorous about the clip from the Today Show at the time that it aired, but when put into the perspective we now have of the internet boom, it becomes hilarious. BMW cleverly spliced this historical irony with what feels odd and futuristic about their newest model to send a clear message: it may be brand new today, but we’ll rely on it tomorrow.
Put it into practice: If you’re an older brand, you’ve undoubtedly changed with the times. If you’re new, then your brand is a product of this time, adhering to modern technology and expectations. At its heart, the BMW Super Bowl Commercial followed the simple structure of compare and contrast, then and now, and you can do the same in smaller-scale formats.
Find a photo, video or even just a description of your product or service from 10+ years ago, or if you’re a newer brand, what a similar product or service looked like. Find a theme tying the historic version to your newer version that speaks to your brand’s mission. For BMW, it was trendsetting with big ideas. That message could be anything from leading innovation to being the first to respond to change. All you have to do is adapt it to your product or service.
Takeaway 3: Emotion is good, but it doesn’t have to be sad
Why it worked: Adweek has cleverly re-tagged the 2015 Super Bowl commercials as the #SadBowl, due to the depressing nature of many of the ads. From absentee fathers to dead children, there was no shortage of lumps in the throat between plays.
Emotion is the bread and butter of advertising. If you can make someone feel, you’ve made a connection, and that’s the beginning of a sale. But as Coke proved, that emotion doesn’t have to be sadness.
Put it into practice: Take a minute to consider what emotion you want people to associate with your product or service. For Coke, it’s happiness, which has been a marketing theme long before the 2015 Super Bowl. For you, it could be any range of emotions including comfort, joy, serenity, satisfaction, relief, anticipation, etc.
Now, tie that emotion to both your product and a relevant story or cause. Coke chose cyber bullying – and rectified it with the happiness derived from drinking a Coke (a little outlandish, but these big leaps work when playing to your emotions rather than your logic).
For example, if your emotion is comfort, you could depict a family cozying up under blankets for movie night, if your product or service somehow fits into that picture. To add in a social element, you could make the parents homosexual or bi-racial. The message would be clear – families come in many shapes and sizes, but the one thing they all have in common is love.
Takeaway 4: A little bit of guilt isn’t always a bad thing, as long as it’s funny
Why it worked: I’d argue that Weight Watchers had, perhaps, the most timely Super Bowl commercial. That’s because, traditionally, Americans pig out for the big game. For many people, the impact these binge fests will have on their waistlines is chronically in the back of their minds, but they justify them for the sake of tradition and culture.
Weight Watchers jumps in and calls us out on our bluff. Calories don’t make exceptions for festivities. Obesity in America is a serious issue, but our obsession with food is also a little bit funny. Weight Watchers makes us feel guilty for mistreating our bodies, while also acknowledging the humor in it.
Put it into practice: Every product or service is designed to solve some sort of problem. That’s the nature of commerce since the beginning of time. Instead of focusing on your product, or your solution, take some time to examine the problem. Chances are, there is some element of humor you can find in it. Just add in a hashtag and a call for user-generated content and you’ve got yourself a campaign!
Which 2015 Super Bowl commercials worked for you? Tell us in the comments below!