Super Bowl Sized Marketing Lessons for Small Shops

Yes, most of us did it. We hunkered down on Sunday without hesitation to binge on lavish dishes and tune into the most widely watched television event of the year, the Super Bowl.


Despite not watching a single other game this year, I dutifully made my way on Sunday to commence in the time-honored tradition. Immersed in a sea of chips, wings, chili and other scrumptious appetizers (hey, don’t judge!) I settled in for the biggest showdown in the advertising world.


Ok, there was a game too, but let’s be honest here. Until the fourth quarter, it seemed like a foregone conclusion. You probably secretly thought about tuning out at halftime.


But the promise of tantalizing ads kept you there.


Rumors speculate that a 30-second spot cost approximately $5 million dollars in 2017. That doesn’t even account for the making of the ad! With a budget that robust, you’re probably wondering how this applies to you. Considering that the most skilled -and highly paid- marketers throw their hat into the ring when it comes to the Super Bowl, there are marketing lessons galore.


1) Stay on Brand  

If I were to crown a winner from the advertising pool, all my chips fall into Mr. Clean’s sexy lap. Not only did the creators evoke humor, stay in line with their brand, they managed to appeal to a diverse client base (aka men and women).


Yes, all the guys were right with us ladies laughing when Mr. Clean seduced a woman begrudgingly cleaning the kitchen. Cleaning Mr. Clean style is sexy.


Business Insider declared it the most memorable ad, as well as debuting well with customers. It had heaps of brand recognition too. That’s what matters.


With Super Bowl ads becoming mini indie films, you have to turn identifying the sponsor into a guessing game. The marketer in me cringes that multiple times we were flabbergasted at the car company or drink logo that eventually emerged at the end.


What does {insert company} have to do with {insert aspects from the ad}?”


Case and point, I can’t even remember the worst offenders. Not a great way to invest $5 million.



Even in a climate pushing ads to become works of art, advertising needs to align with your brand, appeal to your customers and promote your product. If you can’t remember the company that produces the most memorable ad in history, it does the company no good.


Make sure the memorable aspect of the ad is your company or product, even if that means being boring.


2) Cross Platform Execution

The Twittersphere goes bonkers for the big game. Admittedly, I’m right there with them, hooked to seeing what’s trending and engrossed in hysterical commentary.


Brands that execute strong follow up on Twitter gain momentum. (Full disclosure, I also judge brands based on their Twitter follow up.)


It starts with including a hashtag on the ad. To be fair, some brands got away with using one of the many official Super Bowl hashtags.


AirBnB used Twitter as an extension of their #WeAccept campaign. For their main ad, 85,000 likes combined with 37,000 retweets is serious mileage.



They also announced different initiatives, which gained huge support. 


Then they activated their audience to help further their goal.



When you’re investing into a large ticket item, such as a conference or ad series, make sure you work to cross promote to gain the most exposure. Twitter dominates several live event spaces, although Instagram and Facebook are working their way in.


Know what platforms (and event hashtags) best reach your industry then develop ways interact with your ideal client base.


P.S. Twitter is free.


3) Engage with Other Brands

Particularly with the Internet, nothing is a silo these days. That means you need to engage with other brands. Collaboration still beats competition. And today people admire the confidence of one brand to complement another on a job well done.


Or a playful jest.


Here were some of my favorite cross brand tweets.




Despite what it may look like, other brands besides just Mr. Clean bantered back and forth. His were just my favorite. Double points to Tide for my favorite tweet of the game.


Judging by the retweet count, others agreed.





Identify brands that overlap with your ideal customer. Engage with them on social media, or even go so far as breaking the digital barrier and get to actually know them.


Crazy, I know.


When you focus on collaboration with like-minded brands, particularly ones with an overlapping customer base, you drastically increase your reach. In social media, where everyone is hungry for good content, it’s easy to comment, like or share related business content.



4) Choosing to Opt Out



Yes, you just watched a potato for thirty seconds. It was a TERRIBLE AD. So terrible in fact, it bankrupted the company.


Or did it?


Cards Against Humanity made that fake ad then wrote a spoof on how they went bankrupt because of it. Their stunt went viral as countless people tried to figure out if it was real. That’s a lot of mileage for a fake ad.


They weren’t the only company to realize these days you don’t need to actually plop down millions of dollars to make Super Bowl headlines. While there were several name brands absent from the in between plays entertainment, Heinz leveraged their embargo to land themselves on the press cycle.


How? They gave salaried employees the day after the Super Bowl off. Their efforts even went so far as to start a petition to encourage the day to become a national holiday. While I don’t know what message that sends around the world (as a country we can’t manage to go to work after a big football game?), they made valid points about post game productivity.



Sometimes you can’t afford to play in the big leagues. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box to get media attention or find a way to use events to promote your brand. Creativity can go far with customers.


Hopefully you can do it without making me watch a potato for 30 seconds…..


5) Make Sure Your Funnel Works



Who is this company? What do they do? Well, let’s go to the website to see.


I have to admit that I spent most of the halftime show preoccupied with Lumber 84’s website crash. With a prime half time ad slot, they drove hundreds of thousands to their site to complete the journey.


Within minutes of the ad, their site crashed.


Twitter immediately filled with screenshots of the mystery company’s crashed site.


Confusion commenced.


Lady Gaga took the stage (and our short attention spans) before Lumber 84 started sharing the YouTube link for the full ad. Without a dedicated hashtag, it took awhile for the link to circulate. By then, many quickly forgot about the ad.


For an ad with absolutely no name recognition and only a broken website to bridge the gap, that’s unfortunate.


BTW, you can complete the journey here.



Regardless of if you are investing $5 or $5 million, make sure your funnel works. For you, that could be as simple as making sure your link directs to the right product or you have your social media handles right.


Whatever you are asking of your audience, make sure they can complete their journey.


What Were Your Marketing Lesson Takeaways?

Super Bowl sized marketing lessons for small shops - how to learn from the best. I’m an uber-geek, so I doubt many people paid as close attention to the ads as I did. But, we all watch them because that’s half the fun of the game.


So with that in mind, what were your favorite ads? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.