So, the Super Bowl was last Sunday. (Spoiler alert: the Colts did not win.) This year’s game was perhaps more chat-worthy than many a Super Bowl of yore — Deflategate, Marshawn Lynch’s “I’m only here so I don’t get fined,” Tom Brady’s runny nose on press day, Bill Belichick’s questionable wardrobe choices and that unfortunate, head-scratching ending. And yet, what do we end up talking about most of the day? Those Super Bowl commercials.
It’s always interesting to reflect on which ones you remember, and why. Did they make you laugh, cry, think? And even if you liked the commercial, do you remember which company made it? Did they make you laugh, cry or think so much that their branding got lost in the mix?
Sending messages that stick, that stand up and demand your complete attention — that is the true art of marketing. Rather than rehashing the ads, however, we thought it would be interesting to look at some of the game-related events cited above and the lessons they can teach us about effective marketing.
1. Keep your message on point. Perhaps Marshawn Lynch’s constant repeating of “I’m only here so I don’t get fined” to the press corps was mildly annoying, but it was by far the most oft-shown clip from press day. By keeping to his core message and repeating it (we’ll repeat that in case you missed it — and repeating his same comment over and over), he made his message stick. It was his core message, and we received it loud and clear. Make sure your core message is presented early and often.
2. Show, don’t tell. There’s nothing quite as impactful as a succinctly crafted video or statement that does more to get a point across than a thousand or hundred or even fifty words can sometimes do. What has more of a memorable effect? A press release from the Patriots announcing that Tom Brady has a cold but is being cared for by the Surgeon General and will be 110% by game day? Or watching Tommy obviously suffer while wiping his nose on his sleeve during interviews? Uh oh, looks like Tom’s sick. How sick is he? No one’s saying. Will he be ok by game day? We feel like there’s more going on here, and we want to know. We’re engaged. We’re disgusted, but we’re engaged.
3. Be authentic. We may not all be a fan of Coach Belichick’s sideline wardrobe (Tom Landry, we miss you!), but the man doesn’t care how you feel about short-sleeved hoodie sweatshirts. He’s comfortable. He’s being himself. It’s his signature look, bless his small, dark and icy heart, and he owns it. If he showed up pacing the sidelines in a three-piece, we’d probably feel a little weird because we’d know something was off. Everyone can tell when you’re not being true to your brand. So be true to your brand.
4. It’s ok to try new things and make mistakes . . . but timing is everything. Every now and then, we need to stretch outside our comfort zone, let the tried and true sit out a play and go for something unexpected. But let’s take a lesson from that head-scratching ending — make sure you know what the stakes are if you fail. And that billions of people aren’t watching you on tv. Maybe a little A/B testing would be wise before heading for brave new worlds. (With respect to the end of Sunday’s game, A/B stands for “Hey, Russell Wilson, keep the ball Away from Malcolm Butler.)
5. Finally: keep all the air in your balls. Send out your messages with integrity. People can tell when you don’t, and it’s a lot harder to win back their trust than it was to gain it in the first place.
It’s not easy to stand out in the crowd, but with a little creativity, smarts and integrity, it can be done. Here’s a quick final example: One day last week, Brad brought in the user manual for a surge protector that he had just purchased. Asked if he always reads the user manual for incredibly simple devices, Brad declined to take the snarky road that was so artfully placed before him and instead replied, “No, but it was written in such a different, fun way that before I knew it, I was reading it all.” And then, before you knew it, we were all reading the surge protector user manual, and then going to the company website to check them out. That’s one powerful little user manual. Good thing it came with a surge protector.
If a little user manual can get someone’s attention like that, what could you do to stand out in the crowd?