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By now, I'm sure you've seen the controversy regarding Groupon's Super Bowl commercials, even if you haven't seen the commercials themselves. (You can find the one featuring Tibet on YouTube here.) The Monday after the Super Bowl, the Groupon ad was the only one to have a negative sentiment rating on BrandBowl, which tracked Twitter responses to the various Super Bowl commercials in real time. (The commercial is no longer ranked in the top 10 as of Tuesday, February 8.) Since Sunday, there's been an outpouring of analysis and opinion on various sites ranging in sentiment from: "How dare they? They might as well feature Nazis in the next commercial" to "Lighten up, it's a joke."

What I was struck by is the opportunity Groupon missed on Sunday, an opportunity that could have been addressed simply and on-trend with where I believe brands are going in the future. They missed a chance to clearly state their brand purpose. Based on comments their founder, Andrew Mason, has said, I actually think that's what they were trying to do. But clearly, they lost their one chance to make a first impression with much of the world through their high profile ad spot.

Brand purpose is the good that the brand does in the world, above and beyond the product they sell. It's the 'why' the brand exists in addition to selling things and making money. Still relatively controversial, brand purpose is something P&G and others are exploring for their brands. In many cases, purpose is an opportunity for relevant differentiation and a way to stand out and build loyalty with customers and goodwill with non-customers.

Groupon could make the case that it has a winning and useful purpose—to save consumers money, making their lives better or easier. (Not unlike what Wal-Mart describes as their purpose.) So the Groupon ad could have found an engaging way to say: "Here's some savings. And you, dear consumer, can use that extra money for anything you want—including donating to causes you think are important. Just like these causes WE think are important. So if you feel like it, put some of your savings here." In fact, it could have been as simple as a single line in the last frames of the commercial.

Instead, Groupon missed their opportunity to make a good first impression. And I'm afraid they're going to have to do a lot of convincing to get people to believe that they're not using causes to simply sell deals. Instead of selling deals to (perhaps) help causes.

What's your opinion of the Groupon controversy?