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June 5, 2013

Score a touchdown with your marketing strategy

by Howard Fox Chartered Marketer

Super Bowl Ads – The marketing lessons

You don’t have the budget for a Super Bowl ad, but you can still learn from the best…

“Steal with pride” a former boss used to tell me. He was referring to using our competitors’ marketing ideas against them. I was never entirely convinced of the ethics of his advice, but we can certainly all learn from scrutinising world-class marketing.

What better classroom than the pressure cooker of Super Bowl advertising? For those not in the know, Super Bowl ads are the most expensive spots on the planet, costing a cool $3.8-million (that is about R35-million) for 30 seconds.

Howard Fox Chartered Marketer: Author or Score a Touchdown.

This article was first published in Your Business magazine.

The event itself is a really big deal in the States. Super Bowl Sunday is the second highest food consumption day on the American calendar, just behind Thanksgiving. The approximately 111 million television viewers apparently consume 13 000 000kg of chips , 90 million chicken wings and 3 600 000kg of guacamole, washed down with 325.5 million gallons of beer. No wonder marketers target them with such vigour.

Give and ye shall receive

This year’s Super Bowl adverts were varied in message and approach: from Psy dancing Gangnam Style with giant, man-sized pistachio nuts to Budweiser’s offer to have viewers help name the baby Clydesdale horse about to join their beer-carriage team by tweeting “#clydesdales.

What they all shared was that they tried to offer some value to viewers in return for the 30 seconds taken away from the game. Many attempted to be funny, a few achieved this. Some, like the cute baby Clydesdales, managed to fit an emotive tale into the allotted half-minute slot. The escape of the old folk from the Glencobrooke Retirement Home for a night on the town,  including a foam party, tattoos and a run-in with the cops — before late night snacks at Taco Bell – was fantastically uplifting.

When marketing you need to respect that your “target market” is made up of real people and that you need to earn the right to intrude into their homes. We are inclined to forget that while we may have paid a lot of money to advertise, the targets of our communication haven’t directly benefitted from our advertising.

The same holds true with other forms of marketing. Take email campaigns for example. Just because you have someone’s email address doesn’t give you the right to spam them. You need to earn the right to have your emails opened. Some email campaigns have opening rates of less than a third of one percent of emails sent. That is a clear indication that recipients aren’t getting any value and they quickly learn to delete.

In your next email campaign, remember this Super Bowl lesson and offer useful (and relevant) information targeting the recipient’s interests, industry or profession. Perhaps include links to relevant video or news items. Remember “special offers” are only special to people who have an interest in them. To everyone else they are spam.

Hashtags rule

Twitter hashtags and other social media, such as Facebook and Instagram, were virtually ubiquitous throughout all Super Bowl adverts this year. So ubiquitous in fact that the Samsung Galaxy ad, which depicts guys brainstorming what to say in a Super Bowl ad, ends with the characters saying: “I like hashtags… Ok we use hashtags” as (obviously) their twitter hashtag comes up on screen.

An advert is really just an invitation to make a connection and possibly do business. Social media offers the opportunity to connect with prospective consumers and to magnify your reach by creating a buzz on the internet.

Super Bowl adverts play this game to the max with teasers on You Tube prior to game day and competitions and incentives to get people talking about the adverts when they are flighted.

In South Africa we are still somewhat behind the curve when it comes to leveraging social media for business. It is a relatively inexpensive channel to build an ongoing relationship with customers and prospective customers. But it is critical that the content adds value and is appropriate for the social medium.

The 30-second rule

Limiting yourself to 30 seconds to express your brand’s USP – unique selling proposition – is a great discipline. You really need to capture the essence of the brand. It brings the important things into focus. This isn’t unique to Super Bowl ads of course, but the cost and annual nature of this marketing opportunity certainly ensures that the message is distilled to the core of the proposition.

My stand-out advert here was for Soda Stream. I remember Soda Stream from my youth, it really came in a poor second when compared to the Real Thing. Soda Stream has realised that they are unlikely to win a cola taste war. Their unique (and it really is unique) proposition is that, unlike the big beverage companies, they don’t distribute millions of bottles around the world. Their advert demonstrated this USP strongly.

It is powerful stuff. So powerful in fact that the broadcaster banned the first edition of the ad, for fear that they would lose the advertising spend of the other beverage companies. Banning an advert, as Nando’s has proven, simply focuses attention on the issue. Soda Stream went on to enjoy five million You Tube hits and free publicity across all traditional media.

There is nothing more powerful than a truly unique, well-communicated proposition. Couldn’t you use a little of this in your businesses? How much time have you spend trying to define a really differentiated USP? This should be the real focus of all your marketing efforts.

Nothing beats an astronaut

You’ve probably seen the Axe ad on local TV, it was also flighted during the Super Bowl. For those who haven’t seen it: the ad uses a simple but dramatic creative concept, with an initial hero-lifesaver rescuing a bikini-clad girl from the waves. She stares dreamily into her hero’s eyes until she sees an approaching astronaut, she then runs off into the astronaut’s arms.

The advert is brilliant because it leverages two insights: deodorant isn’t really about smelling good, it’s about attracting girls, and nothing beats an astronaut, ever. Every guy has dreamed of being an astronaut. Unilever, the manufacturers of Axe are in a position, given the global sales of the product, to help a lucky winner fulfil this dream. From the consumer’s point of view it’s a dream that their money can’t realistically buy.

The lesson? Selling dreams is a fruitful proposition. Is there an opportunity in your business to sell a dream? If successful, you can trump your competitors, no matter how commoditised your product. It’s worth spending the time thinking about it.

Few marketers enjoy the sort of budget required to fund Super Bowl ads, but there is plenty to be learnt from watching them …

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