7 B2B marketing lessons from this year’s Super Bowl ads
The biggest day of the year in sports has for years been one of the biggest days of the year for marketers as well. Even if you’re a B2B marketer, the annual slate of Super Bowl ads can be incredibly fun to watch, critique and learn from.
Below are a handful of B2B lessons I saw in between the action last night.
1. It’s about campaigns, not spots
How are you going to spend that 30 seconds of fame? Now that you have the world’s attention, what will your spot look like? Of course, smart marketers with Super Bowl spots today are thinking about their 30-60 seconds as a part of their campaign, not the campaign. The Wall Street Journal last week ran a story about the campaign before the spot (yes, advertisers are running ads for their ads, and with good reason).
If you just spend $3-4 million on 30 seconds and do nothing else, it’s not very well leveraged. You’ll have a far more effective campaign with components before, during and after the Big Game.
The same goes for B2B campaigns. If you put all your effort into that trade show booth, and ignore the other opportunities before, during and after the show to engage your targets, you’re highly underutilizing your investment. Same goes for next week’s outbound email. Think in terms of campaigns, not spots, and you’re getting somewhere.
2. Use more of the five senses to your advantage
If you watched the commercials without sound, some of the spots may have still made sense. Others would have lost a lot of their impact without the soundtrack. Budweiser has been a master for years in using great music to accompany their animal and military “returning hero” spots in particular. And that Kia ad gave me chills, not because of the Matrix elements but because of the music.
Most of our B2B marketing efforts could come to live with a soundtrack. Maybe not literally music in the background, but how could you leverage more of our available senses to drive interest and response? Why not create a B2B campaign that gives your customers and prospects chills?
3. Tell a story to get (and keep) your prospect’s attention
Both Budweiser and Coca Cola are masters of telling stories in their Super Bowl ads. They typically take 60 seconds (vs. the more typical 30 for the Big Game) and take their time (relatively) for the story and pay-off to build. But it’s not just a cheap joke we’re waiting for. It’s usually something more compelling, more complex, more emotional.
In B2B, in our desire to be succinct and go right for the win, we ignore the potential of telling a good story. It won’t be appropriate in every opportunity, but it could likely be leveraged more often to your advantage.
4. Use more humor
The occasion of the Super Bowl puts people in a good mood to begin with, so humor is a great ingredient to be leveraged in advertising. And clearly there are situations where humor would be in bad form. But couldn’t humor be leveraged more frequently in B2B? Would it help you stand out merely because so few other B2B companies use it effectively? Could it be an effective icebreaker and differentiator that draws more prospects your way?
5. Use more endorsements
There is typically no greater collection of celebrity appearances and endorsements than during the annual Super Bowl ads. Advertisers are both looking to hitch their star to another, or to imply that you too should be using this product or service just like someone famous. Endorsements are powerful stuff, and continue to be even in a more cynical world.
So maybe you aren’t going to hire Tim Tebow or the Governator for your next campaign, but most B2B companies would benefit from using their happy customers far more often and more prominently in their marketing. Ask any good salesperson and they’ll tell you a really strong case study or success story is their best and most effective sales collateral. Make your customers (and particularly your most successful customers) the star of your next campaign!
6. Don’t always shy away from controversy
GoDaddy, for once, didn’t leverage controversy this year. But SodaStream did. Their first commercial was rejected by FOX for a simple, short negative reference to competitors Coke & Pepsi at the end. It was harmless enough, but they were able to leverage that for some significant additional buzz and coverage of both their campaign and their product.
Risks can be scary, but they can also accelerate your interests if played well.
7. Sometimes, at the right time, you just go for broke
Like it or not, you have to appreciate what Bud Light did for their “Whatever happens next” spot. I highly encourage you to check out the extended spot and footage online as well.
Bud Light has been an aggressive Super Bowl advertiser for years, but this was bigger even for them. They had a big idea and they went for it. Will it be worth the effort? Time (and pundits) will tell, but I appreciate the vision and creativity behind it for sure.
B2B marketers, when’s the last time you took on a big project like this? Put more eggs in one basket? It can feel risky, but if you plan and execute well, the payoff can often be worth it.
I’d love to hear more of your reactions to last night’s game, advertising and potential B2B implications in the comments below.