Super Bowl Ads Provide Marketing Fodder

The 2014 Super Bowl game may not have played out as anticipated, but the much-hyped commercial onslaught was true to form this year as viewers were blitzed with cute kids and dogs, celebrity appearances, patriotism, rock stars, and explosive promos for upcoming action flicks and TV shows.

Phew! Time to digest all the snacks and the take-away knowledge from the good and bad commercials that you can apply to your own financial services marketing strategies.

  • Visual Trumps Verbal: Okay, admit it; the reunion of the lab puppy and the Clydesdale horse in the Budweiser ad did not need words. If I hadn’t been so enthralled during the commercial I would have been grabbing a beer! Remember, no matter what product or service you are offering, we live in a visual world where imagery can resonate long after the verbal message has been forgotten.
  • Don’t Take Yourself too Seriously: The first commercial for Wonderful Pistachios was a sleeper, but turns out that was intentional; the follow-up was hilarious when spokesperson Stephen Colbert livened up his outfit and antics. The upshot: don’t be afraid to interject humor and levity.
  • Marketing is a Long-term Game: Remember the ground-breaking “1984” Apple commercial 30 years ago? This ad was just the starting point for Apple’s Macintosh and not once did the commercial show a computer. Ironically, this year Microsoft took the same tactic with story-telling examples about the impact of computer technology. While the Microsoft plan is unclear, we can definitely see that Apple’s long-term marketing plan was successful, which points out that some wins are quick and easy, but most are about relationship-building and they take time to cultivate and nurture.
  • Does Rebranding Work? Kia is making a big push to rebrand with its K900, stating “It challenges everything” but will it work? The Super Bowl commercial featuring Laurence Fishburne as his Matrix character was mysterious and moody but seemed to miss the rebranding mark. Arnold Shwarzenegger’s rebranding attempt, on the other hand, was funny. His Bobby Riggs plays table tennis persona easily removed any serious images of the actor and former California governor. Clearly, rebranding is tough and can have mixed results, particularly if the new approach is not purposeful or specific.
  • Hashtag Popularity Grows: According to MarketingLand 57% of the Super Bowl ads included hashtags, up from the 50% noted in 2013, with most of them directed at Twitter. Social media links were minimal and nearly a quarter of the commercials still included a URL. Interestingly the marketing group found some hashtag links were not up-to-date and/or did not reference the commercial. A big miss! Hashtags provide a great conduit for immediate interaction and ongoing conversation, yet the execution cannot be overlooked or minimalized in today’s savvy marketplace.
  • Timing is Tricky: Who knew the Seattle Seahawks would make the fourth quarter (okay, the second half) a sleeper? Certainly not the ad writers or the folks buying time. Was there anything more off-target than Bruce Willis launching the Honda commercial in the fourth quarter by saying “Great game, right?” Keep that in mind next time you set up automatic Twitter or LinkedIn postings; timing is everything!
  • Call to Action: The U2 and Bank of America commercial garnered immediate attention following the partnership’s call to action in support of the AIDS nonprofit (RED). In the 24 hours following the Super Bowl, Bank of America donated $1 dollar for every free download of the new U2 song “Invisible” on iTunes. Initially BofA set a $2 million cap, but agreed on Monday to keep donating beyond the maximum throughout the 24-hour free download period. A Call to Action is a powerful tool, particularly when there is a reward or win for the recipient or client.