The Super Bowl of Marketing: What $5 Million Commercials Can Teach Us

by Jessica Zartler / February 05, 2016

It’s arguably the holiest day for Americans – Super Bowl Day. This year it’s Super Bowl 50.

It’s almost a religion for many. Where decorations come in the form of colored flags bearing mascots, the holy book is the TV schedule and the venerable meal is taken in the form of chicken wings and beer.

And the game itself – this year between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos – is often not what people are talking about. It’s the commercials and the more than 112 million people watching them.

The bank-breaking advertisements are known for the massive marketing touchdowns they create, bringing a brand to a superstar level that people talk about for years. It’s a marketing dream.

But just because your company can’t fork over $5 million for a 30-second TV spot, doesn’t mean you can’t cash in on some of the genius marketing tactics for your own gain.

Here are five things we can learn from Super Bowl’s best advertisements over the years

      1. Storytelling

Marketing, especially Content Marketing is all about telling a story. Whether it’s the story of your company, a product or a project you are working on, knowing how to communicate is at the core of whether or not people are going to listen to your message.

It’s got to have a beginning, middle and end. It’s got to grab attention. And it’s got to be memorable.

It’s a challenge enough to do this with a film or a novel, but to do this in 30-seconds is sheer wizardry. If you need some tips on how to create a good story, just watch some of the best Super Bowl commercials.

Like this one from Pepsi. It’s simple. People don’t have to think too hard. It doesn’t even have dialogue. And the best thing, it simply works.

      2. Video is Engaging

Besides the basic element of storytelling, the thing Super Bowl TV commercials have going for them is that they are video. A picture is worth 1,000 words, so video must be exponentially greater.

The impact you can have is so much bigger than that of telling them through a Tweet, Blog or even a photo. Video is about experience – bringing people to a place or allowing them to be transported and feel something. Not to mention you have a 50 times higher chance to end up on a Google front-page when you use video.

Wistia is a really great resource for companies who can’t afford to hire a video production company and want to save a buck by learning how to produce good quality videos themselves.

Take for example an article or marketing guide talking about Cindy Crawford… or watching this Super Bowl ad with Cindy from 1992.

      3. Building Buzz

It’s one of those words people throw around when it comes to marketing, but here is an opportunity to actually get it to happen. Even if you can’t afford to get in the big times or Super Bowl advertising, you can certainly piggy back on the ideas to generate buzz.

One of the biggest elements of the commercials has become the ‘tease.’ They are so hyped that brands are releasing sneak peeks on line, dominating hashtags and social media feeds with updates.

And people are tuned in and eating it up, allowing for even more brand exposure and ‘free’ advertising (although you could argue it’s not free because well, the commercials).

The point here is to really use any big promotions you have. Say your company only has budget for one contest a year to give away something or a sale. Plan in advance and ‘tease’ your customers. Don’t be afraid to let them know it is coming up, using a clever Hansel & Gretel approach – you know, leave a little trail of breadcrumbs.

Budweiser is brilliant at doing this. See this year’s tease and use of social media leading up to the gameday spot.

      4. Make it Stick with Shock and Awe

Advertising is an opportunity to get creative and entertain people, but sometimes businesses and marketers get so carried away with the story, that they forget it’s important that people actually remember your brand.

It’s great to shock and surprise and to be funny, but make sure you take some time to think about how you can make your brand visible.

The next video is a good or bad example of this, depending on your view.

Good, because Reebok made sure to put a big slide with the name of their brand. Bad because, well because the commercial is so abrupt and shocking that you almost can’t remember what they were advertising.

However, in this case it was successful because people went back to watch again and again online. So, eventually it sunk in that the commercial was for Reebok. But it’s a fine balance.

      5. Humanize Your Brand

More than anything, the best law for making something memorable is to make it relatable. What is universal? I think most people would agree – puppies and babies. Oh yeah, and kittens.

They started showing up more and more in Super Bowl commercials the last few years. These things automatically evoke emotion people and they feel connected. Hopefully, to your brand a little more because you showed you’re a human too.

In the world of high-tech communication it’s important to speak to people through your copywriting, video and marketing elements - speak to them like actual people. Meaning you are a person too.

You can show this cleverly through bringing nostalgic elements into your content marketing and I’ll say it again - puppies and babies. Everyone knows what it’s like to go on a first date or miss their family or be a kid.

Volkswagen has probably the best example of this in its 2011 TV commercial, “The Force.”

Also by the way, my personal favorite Super Bowl commercial of all time.

So again, just because you can’t drop millions on advertising for your business that will be seen by almost one-third of all of the U.S., doesn’t mean you can’t cash in on Super Bowl advertising.

Make use of search engine optimization, use trending social media topics and hashtags and study the above five topics when you are watching the commercials this year.

Tell a good story, use videos when you can, build a buzz, make them remember you and most of all, be a human.

Happy Super Bowl, I wish you great success and enjoy those chicken wings!

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