4 marketing lessons from Super Bowl brand winners

From Tide’s takeover to ‘Deadpool’s’ snarky live commentary, several brand managers gave communicators insights into attracting viewer attention and boosting brand recognition.

Perhaps just as exciting as the matchup on the field are the Super Bowl’s advertising spots.

Organizations spent millions on 30-second spots hoping to spark conversation, as other brand managers use social media to entice the huge consumer market tuned into the game.

WGNTV reported:

… Just who are the 111 million viewers of the Super Bowl? According to Nielsen, the audience last year was almost evenly split between men and women — 53 percent and 47 percent, respectively.

Here are four lessons from outstanding marketing stunts and ads during this year’s Super Bowl:

1. Turn to Twitter instead.

The Super Bowl usually contains trailers for several upcoming films, but viewers noticed that one film franchise was notably absent during last night’s ads. Instead of promoting “Deadpool 2” with a trailer, 20th Century Fox took a different route.

Vanity Fair reported:

… [J]ust because 20th Century Fox didn’t shell out millions for a 45-second spot doesn’t mean Deadpool ignored the big game. The film’s official Twitter account, which is written in Deadpool’s irreverent voice, spent Sunday pretending that the studio had been “too cheap” to buy a pricey ad—and was “making” Deadpool himself live-tweet the entire game, as Deadline handily pointed out. After all, his catchphrase is “maximum effort.”

The Twitter profile for the franchise’s irreverent main character posted gems such as this:

Vanity Fair reported:

The tweets allowed the film to find a loophole: it could advertise itself during the Super Bowl without letting go of millions of dollars in the process, and it could do so without compromising Deadpool’s impressively gross sense of humor. While this campaign didn’t have the same impact as actually dropping a trailer—Twitter can’t compete with an enormous, captive, hyped-up TV audience—it still might have filled the Deadpool 2-shaped hole in fans’ hearts. The film doesn’t hit theaters until May 18, a long ways away—so keeping anticipation high is key.

Forbes contributor Scott Mendelson wrote that more film franchises might take a nod from “Deadpool” and “Solo,” waiting to release trailers until just a few months before the feature is released. Other brands, such as DiGiorno, have also successfully taken advantage of live-tweeting instead of running a commercial.

However, brand managers looking to make similar moves should be careful when live-tweeting an event as big as the Super Bowl. Otherwise, you might end up with a fine for violating a protected trademark.

2. Impromptu moments can make great content.

Coca-Cola joined other organizations showcasing their ads during the event in its first Super Bowl commercial since 1997:

However, the spot was almost entirely ad-libbed.

Actress Hayley Magnus was originally supposed to shoot a six-second video meant to be part of a social media campaign for Diet Coke. However, the soda brand’s executives thought Magnus’ impromptu dance was so funny that they decided to use the entire footage (shot in one take) for the Super Bowl.

Variety reported:

“She was so funny from head to toe doing this dance,” recalled Paul Feig, the creator and director behind “Bridesmaids” and “Freaks and Geeks,” among other works, who directed a new group of Diet Coke ads. And she started to narrate her action, which wasn’t necessarily in the script, he said. “She was getting sillier and more charming. She’s ad libbing. I go, ‘I can’t stop!’ We were just cracking up, and I said, ‘I think this just might be the Super Bowl spot.'”

AdAge reported:

“This little teeny tiny snackable peice of social content ended up being one of the best pieces of content that we have in the campaign because it’s one of the things that best showcases the attitude of Diet Coke’s ‘because I can’—-that being do whatever makes you happy no matter what anyone else thinks,” [Danielle Henry, group director of integrated marketing content for Coca-Cola North America] says.

It’s a lesson for PR and marketing pros to be open to moments of inspiration and unplanned content opportunities. You might plan to write specific copy or shoot particular footage, but those who are open to new directions can stumble onto success.

3. Promote content before your big moment.

Many viewers enjoyed Doritos’ Super Bowl commercial, but the snack brand won a marketing crown before the Super Bowl’s opening kick.

AdAge reported:

“Doritos Blaze vs Mtn Dew Ice” piled up 28.9 million views up through the end of the Thursday before the Super Bowl itself, according to Visible Measures’ tally. The figures here include both paid views, such as video ads, and organic views in which consumers sought out the spots. They also roll up views for teasers, extended cuts and the actual ads if they’ve been released. That means the “Dilly Dilly” entry below includes not only Bud Light’s “Ye Olde Pep Talk” ad in the “Dilly Dilly” campaign but the “Bud Knight” spot as well.

Amazon also grabbed tons of views as it dripped out parts of its Super Bowl marketing before Feb. 4:

Don’t be afraid to share your content before its big reveal (unless you’re keeping an announcement under wraps). You’ll want to share what you create several times in order to attract the most consumers, and showing people before your big moment can pay off in online buzz and media coverage.

4. Change the conversation.

“Mad Men’s” Don Draper once said, “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.” Tide—which has been battling a PR crisis caused by social media creators jokingly eating its Tide Pods—took that advice to heart.

The detergent brand launched its Super Bowl takeover by “Stranger Things'” David Harbour suggesting that every advertisement was a “Tide ad.” It then followed up with short, funny spoofs of other brands’ commercials (including Old Spice) throughout the Super Bowl:

The Washington Post published an article titled, “The five best Super Bowl commercials, from Tide to Tide.” In it, reporters Maura Judkis and Sonia Rao wrote:

There have been a number of meta Super Bowl commercials over the years, poking fun of the most common tropes (talking babies, cute animals, sexy women) that we often see during the game’s ads. But none have done it as well as Tide, whose series of ads throughout this year’s matchup managed to be surprising and memorable, and made many people forget that people were poisoning themselves with the “Tide pod challenge.”

Adweek reported:

Tide’s wildly ambitious plan is much more involved than your average Super Bowl spot. The detergent brand’s goal is to take over the Super Bowl with a campaign that positions Harbour as an omniscient narrator of sorts, asking Super Bowl viewers to question every ad they see—because if you’re seeing clean clothes, you could be watching a Tide ad.

To accomplish this, the company bought an ad in every quarter—a 45-second establishing spot in the first quarter, along with 15-second ads for each of the following three quarters. Tide then filmed each scene as a separate short spot in the genre of whatever product it’s pretending to pitch. There’s a car ad, a beer ad, a deodorant ad and a half-dozen others, all of which, through various twists, turn out to be pitching the same laundry detergent.

By embracing a humorous tone and referencing popular stunts and memes, the company changed the conversation from a crisis to clever marketing. By releasing the ads throughout the Super Bowl, Tide effectively got viewers chatting about them—and reporters drafting up articles about its effective marketing strategy.

What about you PR Daily readers? What Super Bowl ads did you love—and why?

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