The 2019 Super Bowl Ads: Who Unleveled the Playing Field?

Doritos Super Bowl Chance the Rapper Backstreet Boys

By now, we’re at the point where we know what to expect from the Super Bowl ads.

Before the game, you could have jotted down a list of what you thought you would see, based on history.  That list probably would have included:

  • Celebrities galore!
  • Animals (especially dogs) at their most undeniably adorable
  • People or animals doing silly dances
  • Inspiring Statements of High-Minded Purpose
  • The unusual, the surreal, the flat-out bizarre (with or without reason)
  • Production values to rival a summer blockbuster film

You can make this kind of list for almost any category.  Sometimes, it’s comically easy to do.  And the more “tried, true and expected” the items on that list, the more ripe that category is for some rule-breaking.

So who broke the rules with this year’s Super Bowl ads? Continue reading “The 2019 Super Bowl Ads: Who Unleveled the Playing Field?”

Is Southwest Airlines Still a Great Brand?

Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 Engine

The last few weeks have been bad for Southwest Airlines.

So bad, in fact, that it’s fair to ask: Is Southwest still a great brand?  Let’s discuss the cases for and against.

The Case For: Southwest IS a Great Brand

There was a time, not so long ago, when I would use Southwest in my keynotes and seminars as a clear example of a great brand.

I would start by asking the audience to join me as I painted a picture of Major Airline Advertising.  This was easy to do, since Major Airline Advertising is both familiar and largely interchangeable.  It might go something like this: Continue reading “Is Southwest Airlines Still a Great Brand?”

Six Important Questions for This Year’s Super Bowl Advertisers

M&Ms Super Bowl Advertisers

Quick show of hands: Do you have a marketing budget of five million dollars?

And if you did, how would you feel about spending it in 30 seconds?  Because that’s exactly what last night’s Super Bowl advertisers did.  Repeatedly.

That’s nearly $167,000 per second – more than most Americans earn in an entire year.

So I trust you’ll forgive me if I approach the Super Bowl ads, and the surrounding fanfare, with a healthy degree of scrutiny.  I’m a brand guy – always have been – but I also know this:  If it doesn’t sell, it’s bad branding.

And, based on history, most of last night’s ads did not sell. Continue reading “Six Important Questions for This Year’s Super Bowl Advertisers”

Why Is Brand Awareness Such a Weak Objective?

Brand Awareness Martin Shkreli

At some point in the history of marketing and sales, the “purchase funnel” was created.

At the top of every funnel is the first step – awareness.  We then proceed down the funnel to consideration, evaluation and purchase (though the exact steps vary from model to model).

Brand Awareness Purchase Funnel
One of several versions of the “purchase funnel.”

And so some marketers began to believe that brand awareness was a reasonable objective of their efforts.  How can we stuff consumers into our imaginary funnel if we don’t start with awareness? Continue reading “Why Is Brand Awareness Such a Weak Objective?”

The Super Bowl Ads: 9 Inexpensive Lessons for the Rest of Us

Super Bowl Ads Wix

Who won Super Bowl LI? Besides the Patriots, that is.

For starters, Fox did pretty well. Days before the game, a Fox exec crowed, “We are going to finish with the highest revenue day in Fox history.”

When you sell dozens of Super Bowl ads for $10 million per minute, there’s probably a pretty good pizza party in the break room.

So advertisers must have done well too, right? Not so fast. Communicus, a research firm, has conducted several studies of the effectiveness of Super Bowl ads. Their findings? Only about one advertiser in five actually builds its brand.

There’s a danger: Those of us without super-sized marketing budgets might be blinded by the hype. We might be inclined to believe that things like “likeability scores” matter. They don’t. Continue reading “The Super Bowl Ads: 9 Inexpensive Lessons for the Rest of Us”

Super Bowl 50: 7 Lessons for Challenger Brands

Super Bowl Ads Challenger Brands

About five million dollars. That’s the cost for one of this year’s 30-second Super Bowl ads.

For most of us who lead challenger brands, that kind of outlay simply isn’t in the realm of possibility. As underdogs, we’re used to doing more with less.

The Super Bowl – and, in particular, the hype surrounding its ads – is perhaps the greatest example in business of flawed thinking on a grand scale. Though attention is heightened during the big game, viewers are primarily looking to be entertained. (This is how we get a Bud Light ad with “caucus” jokes. Oof, you are so ribald!)

Of course, ads that entertain don’t necessarily sell. And challenger brands know that it’s all about selling.

So let’s talk about what the rest of us can learn from this year’s Super Bowl ads. Continue reading “Super Bowl 50: 7 Lessons for Challenger Brands”

“The Perfect Beer for (Insert Anything Here)”: Bud Light and Empty Claims

to thisWhile visiting Northeastern Ohio over the holidays, I came across cans of Bud Light that were customized in Cleveland Browns colors. The cans featured the following slogan:

“The Perfect Beer for Being Dawg Pound Proud”

Bud Light loves the Browns!
Bud Light loves the Browns!

(For those that may not know, the Dawg Pound is the nickname for the bleacher seats behind the east end zone of FirstEnergy Stadium, where the most fervent Browns fans congregate.)

My first reaction to this slogan was that it couldn’t have been written by anyone familiar with the team. I’ve been a Browns fan all my life, and “proud” is not a word we’re using these days. “Justifiably outraged” is more like it; the Browns have just one winning season in the last 13, and have lost 18 of their last 21 games.

My second reaction was: Continue reading ““The Perfect Beer for (Insert Anything Here)”: Bud Light and Empty Claims”

Radio Shack’s Super Bowl Fumble

Radio Shack ran an ad during this year’s Super Bowl. It was essentially an acknowledgement that their stores have been horribly out-of-date.

After establishing the premise of “The 80’s called – they want their store back,” a stream of retro characters poured into a Radio Shack store and began to dismantle it.

Hey look! It's Hulk Hogan! And Erik Estrada! And the guy from Cheers! Let's go buy electronics!
Hey look! It’s Hulk Hogan! And Erik Estrada! And the guy from Cheers! Let’s go buy electronics!

Some people liked it. “Funny!” they said. Or, “Look at all these characters I recognize!” Or, “I’m in my mid-forties, and I equate these warm pangs of nostalgia with quality advertising!” Continue reading “Radio Shack’s Super Bowl Fumble”