Marketing Tips: What You Can Learn from the Big Game’s Best Commercials

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superbowl_2.4.14Well, it’s another Big Game down in the books! While many people will be talking about their favorite commercials around the water cooler today—ones that made them laugh, cry, or go “What the heck?”—we thought we’d share five commercials and discuss the valuable lessons small business owners can apply to their own marketing.

The Secret behind Budweiser’s Always-Awesome Commercials
Like many brands, Budweiser released its now-famous puppy commercial last week. And like everyone else, we couldn’t resist it either. But here’s the question to ask yourself: what exactly makes this commercial—and all the other ones Bud has done over the years—so great?

Here’s the answer: Bud knows how to tell an honest story in 60 seconds flat—a story that always tugs at our heartstrings because it deals with emotions that resonate with most of us: love, loss, friendship, hope, redemption, salvation.

How to apply this concept to your small business: We’re not suggesting you make a commercial with a dog and horse. What we are suggesting is you focus on the special stories that exist within your business (and trust us—they do exist) and share them.

What’s the story behind your latest product creation? What’s the story behind the office manager taking a week off to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity? What’s the story behind the office mascot, a cute little cat who roams the cubes looking for a scratch on the head? What’s the story behind the sales rep who runs a road race every October in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month? The stories could be directly related to your products/services, or they can be about the people who make up your organization.

Share the stories. Share them as little sidebar nuggets in your monthly newsletter. Share them on social media. Create an area on your website’s “About” section where people can dig deeper and learn more about the true nature of your company and the people who are part of it.

See, here’s the thing: people remember stories. They might not be able to rattle off your office hours, or what differentiates you from the competition, or your product’s features and benefits, but they WILL remember the meaningful stories you tell.

Doritos Knows How to Engage Fans and Non-Fans Alike
Doritos “Crash the Super Bowl” contest gets a ton of mileage each year (this was its eighth!). The contest works like this: fans create 30-second commercials about Doritos. They submit them, Doritos picks the top five contenders, and then people vote for their faves. The top fan-voted commercial and another one picked by Doritos are what air during the Big Game.

Below is one of the winning commercials.

How to apply this concept to your small business: Simply put: run contests. People love winning things, whether it’s a free product or service from your organization, a monetary prize, or something special like an iPad or flat screen TV.

Contests are great because…

  • They get customers engaged and re-engaged with your brand.
  • They can generate interest among non-fans, thus increasing exposure.
  • They’re incredibly shareable on social media.
  • Once you’ve set one contest up, they can be incredibly “turn key” to produce after that.
  • They don’t “tire” like other marketing and advertising initiatives—if a contest ever begins to feel stale, you don’t need to stop running the contest…you just need to re-invent it (perhaps with a different prize or different spin).
  • They’re fun!

Axe Understands the Potential in Highlighting the Overlooked/Unexpected
If you have or know any adolescent boys, you’re probably familiar with Axe’s line of male grooming products. Axe produced one of the most talked-about commercials of the Big Game season. The content surprised everyone: it didn’t “read” like a spot for body wash. It was a mini movie and a love story to boot, one that no one was prepared for, but it all made sense in the end when the spot promoted peace and love, not war (Axe was promoting its new Peace fragrance line).

In case you missed it, check it out below.

It worked so well because if its unexpected nature and because the theme still applied (albeit loosely) to the product itself: you use these products to smell good and to be ready for the one you love, because love is essential…it’s what makes the world go round and it’s always a better answer than war.

How to apply this concept to your small business: When you make a list of features and benefits about your business, what are the items you seldom discuss or talk about in your marketing materials? Why do you avoid talking about them? Maybe it’s because you feel this particular item is too simple or too obvious or too odd or whatever. And maybe that’s precisely why you should consider creating some messaging around it: because it’s simple (and likely memorable). Because it’s obvious (remember, it might be obvious to you, but it’s probably not obvious to all of your customers). Because it’s odd (again, oddities tend to be memorable…the next time you see a bottle of Axe or get a whiff of your 13-year-old after he takes his shower, there’s a good chance you’ll think of this commercial).

If you’re not sure where to begin or what differentiating messages you should focus on, ask your core customers what’s important to them and what they want to hear about. That’s what Axe did. According to this article in Time, the marketing folks talked to their core demographic–Millennials–and found out what was important to them. The themes of peace and harmony kept cropping up. And from that, an ad campaign was born.

Oikos Yogurt and Radio Shack Celebrate Nostalgia
Full House fans had a special treat during last night’s game: a mini-reunion with the TV show’s stars in the Oikos Yogurt commercial. And those of us who lived through the Big-Hair Era three decades ago got a real kick out of Radio Shack’s ode to the 80s.

Never underestimate the power of nostalgia. Think of all the people who are going to pass the yogurt case in their local grocery store and see Oikos in a whole new light, one that brings back fond memories of a beloved TV show from the 80’s and 90s. And think of all the people who might actually consider Radio Shack now for all their electronic needs.

How to apply this concept to your small business: There are more ways to take part in the nostalgia game than you think. Even if your company hasn’t been in business that long, we bet you and your employees can round up old photos of yourself so that you can take part in the popular #ThrowbackThursday trend on social media. Every year on your organization’s “birthday,” talk about some pop cultural sensations that occurred during the year you first started your business. So, for example, if your company was founded in 2004, you could say something like “Facebook was just getting started in a dorm room in Harvard when we launched our business.” At the end of the year, write a “reflections” blog post and talk about some of the highlights and low-lights from the last year…both within your company and the world at large.

The cool thing about nostalgia is that everyone can play. So if you’re talking about how you started your company 10 years ago and you name the top song and movie from that year, people will be able to relate and remember where they were and what they were doing. And, just like that, they’ll feel a little more connected to you and your brand, simply by sharing in this trip down memory lane (which we suspect is exactly what the folks at Oikos were going for).

GoDaddy Tries Something New
GoDaddy is famous for its sexy commercials, but this year, it tried a new theme, one focused on its core audience: small business owners. The departure was a refreshing change and makes more sense, since GoDaddy is all about giving businesses the web tools they need to be successful and “Go Time” ready, as the commercial suggests.

How to apply this concept to your small business: Don’t be afraid to try new messaging, especially if your current messaging doesn’t seem to be hitting the mark. At the same time, we don’t recommend experimenting willy-nilly. You should have a reason for tweaking or for trying something new, and you should do your homework and research different options (and if you don’t know how to do this on your own, or if you don’t have the time, consider outsourcing this project to a marketing consultant).

What did you think of the commercials? Who were some of the winners and losers? Are there any other business lessons we can learn? Share in the comments.

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