There is an old truism in the sales profession--people buy from people they like. The same goes for brands. Being “liked” is certainly not the only reason people buy your product or service, but it’s the foundation of a strong and lasting relationship and something that needs to be nurtured and developed. There are certain times when a brand should be “selling,” and there are other times a brand should be building that deeper emotional bond--something I call brand endearment.
The Super Bowl is certainly one of those times. Super Bowl advertisements have become their own form of entertainment, and as such play by a completely different set of rules. Ads shouldn’t be in hard sales mode, they should be trying to build greater brand endearment. As the world quiets down to actually watch a Super Bowl commercial, they are expecting to be entertained, moved, inspired, or made to howl. Beware to advertisers who don’t understand these rules--they'll wake up Monday morning with a multi-million-dollar case of buyer’s remorse.
Many think Super Bowl advertising is a waste of time and money. I disagree. For big brands it’s a unique weapon in the marketer’s arsenal. Unlike normal TV advertising (which many people despise), people are actually excited about watching Super Bowl ads. It’s part of the Super Bowl ritual. We rank them, debate them, post them, share them, re-watch them, pre-watch them, and sometimes claim they are more entertaining than the game itself. People want to watch the advertising. That never happens when someone tunes in to Modern Family.
So what makes for a great Super Bowl ad? In my opinion it is an ad that creates the deepest emotional connection possible, which leads to engendering your brand with an endearing quality. Why do you think kids and dogs show up in so many ads--it’s the cheapest trick to creating an endearing moment. Back to my sales analogy, if you take your client to a Super Bowl, you will have an amazing shared experience. You will talk about the crazy pre-parties, and the wild halftime show, you will analyze the game in ridiculous detail, but you won’t talk about work. You’re not there to pitch your product, you are there to build a relationship. Your TV spot should be doing the same thing. Spots that focus on building deep brand endearment can use that equity and goodwill throughout out the year. It will make all of your subsequent selling moments more effective. People find ways to justify buying brands they like.
The stakes are high for Super Bowl advertisers. If they understand how to use this special medium, the buzz for a good ad results in a storm of incremental exposure, coverage they cannot buy, and goodwill that is invaluable. But if they’re selling too hard, or come off as offensive and obnoxious, that negative backlash can be brutal. Last year’s winner was VW’s Darth Vader spot , which was both endearing and off-the-charts funny. As a result, it was the most shared TV spot in history, and VW went on to have a very strong 2011 year in sales.
My assessment of the 2012 Super Bowl spots? Ads for Bud Light Platinum, Lexus GS, and GE didn’t work well because they were selling too hard and were self-serving. The GoDaddy and Cars.com spots were just obnoxious and creepy, thus might help with brand awareness but not brand endearment. My winners : Chrysler’s dramatic rallying cry to America; Acura’s Seinfeld tease campaign; and Bud Light’s Weego (so sue me, I thought the dog was cute).
Read more post-game analysis of social media campaigns at Co.Create:
- Shazam CEO Andrew Fisher's 3 Social Super Bowl Takeaways 
- Bluefin Breaks Down Record-Setting Super Bowl XLVI Social Media Numbers 
Related: The Best Spots Of Super Bowl XLVI