Monday, February 6, 2012

Lessons in Marketing: Super Bowl 2012

I am sure most of us watched Super Bowl XLVI last night.  Some of us for the game, others for the ads and others for the halftime show.  I just wanted to make sure none of you lost the valuable marketing lessons that we can apply to our businesses.  Below are a few observations and tidbits from the game itself, the halftime show and some of the ads that were featured.

As for the game itself, the NFL has successfully created an annually anticipated event that attracted over 111 millions viewers in the U.S. last night (46% of all TV households), and hundreds of millions more globally (the #1 watched show of alltime).  Notice I did not say the NFL featured a football game, as the Super Bowl has become much more than a football game. It has become a platform for football, for corporate advertisers, for the halftime musicians, for an excuse for friends to get together, for grocery stores to sell food and beer, for apparel companies to sell merchandise, etc.  There is no other single event that commands this scale of audience and engages Americans into action, moreso than the Super Bowl.  So, the lesson for your business:  remember you are selling more than a product or service, you are selling an experience.  And, you have to continually improve that experience over time, to command more and more loyalty and excitement around your brand, as the Super Bowl has built up over the last 46 years.

As for the halftime show, I am curious how many music downloads Madonna had last night, during her 15 minute show?  Probably as many as consumers who downloaded her music in the last month overall.  Not even American Idol, the #1 music focused show, can stimulate as many downloads for its acts, in such a short period of time.  So, figure out what platform is going to ignite your business and how you are going to tap into it, to help your business take off overnight. 

Staying on the halftime discussion, we have to talk about Madonna herself.  Madonna is a marketing genius, that has figured out how to reinvent herself and stay relevant, since she first hit the scene in 1982.  First of all, she is 53 years old, still looks great and is dancing on stage with artists half her age.  Secondly, she knows what is going to keep her relevant, staying visible in front on hot distribution vehicles (e.g., the Super Bowl, episodes of Glee). Thirdly, she surrounds herself with hot young talent, as she did last night with Nicki Minaj, LMFAO and Cee Lo Green, to tap into their young fan bases by association.  And, the same holds true for your businesses.  You constantly need to be reinventing your business and looking for partnerships that can help you scale your growth over time.

That said, Madonna was not perfect last night, by any means.  First of all, it was obvious the acts were lip synching their performances, which lessoned the authenticity of the product.  And, Madonna mostly sang songs that were produced decades ago, positioning her as an "old act".  Instead of using the majority of her time on promoting her newest album, showing she is still relevant as a "new artist".  As a comparison, I thought Jennifer Lopez did a much better job resparking her career when she performed her newest song, On The Floor (a duet with Pitbull, a hot current artist), during the finale of American Idol.  So, the business lesson:  when you have the opportunity to materially move your sales needle, don't blow it with an inferior product or the wrong pitch.

And, finally, as for the Super Bowl ads, I am not going to disect the plusses and minuses of every single one.  There are plenty of sites that can do that, including this recap of the 2012 Super Bowl Ads at Hulu.  What I am going to do is highlight key things that I would deem important as a marketer, in terms of taking advantage of getting in front of such a large audience.  To me, that is summarized as:  (i) did it help me build my brand awareness; (ii) did it help me spark a viral buzz; (iii) is the messaging in tune with my core product; or (iv) did it help me sell more product, understanding it is tough to do all of these things in one ad.  Below, are a few "hits and misses", based on this criteria.

A few hits:
  • I thought Hulu won the night in terms of having an ad that was fun and memorable, but was also directly tied to their core business, featuring key clips from TV and movie watching history, directly relevant to their TV and movie watching business.
  • Audi did a nice job emphasizing one of their car features (e.g., headlights as bright as daylight), with them unintentionally killing all the vampires at the night party when it arrived.
  • Acura featuring Jerry Seinfeld as the #2 person on the waitlist for their hot new car, and the extent that he is willing to go to get to #1 on the waitlist.
  • The ecstatic high school graduate who thought his parents just bought him a Chevy Camaro, prominently featured throughout the entire commercial.
  • A Hyundai car literally getting your "pulse going", by resuscitating a man back to life with his seatbelt, by quickly starting and stopping the car in repetition.
  • Budweiser showing clips over the history of time, with people partying with their beer over the decades.
  • Pepsi's ad was clearly a hit for Melanie Amaro, the winner of X Factor's singing contest, and I think it was also a hit for Pepsi too, as she topples the king (Elton John) and gets Pepsi for all. 
A few misses:
  • I loved the positive message of the Chrysler ad with Clint Eastwood talking about Detroit and the auto industry fighting back.  But, would Chrysler have been better served by featuring a few of its cars??  Honestly, I was waiting for a "brought to you by the Obama campaign" closing graphic, for successfully bailing out the auto industry.
  • I loved the return of Ferris Bueller in the Honda ad, which sparked a viral sensation (which in some regards acheived its goal), but I bet it had people wanting to see a Ferris Bueller movie sequel more than it had them wanting to buy a Honda.
  • Volkswagon is doing a better job marketing for Star Wars, than they are for their own cars.
Just remember with these ads, funny is great (especially to create virality online), but funny is even better if you can directly tie it back into your core product, which should be heavily featured in the ad.  Don't waste your 30 seconds in the spotlight on stuff irrelevant to your core product and marketing goals, especially when you are spending $3MM on that 30 second spot.

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