In recent years, Super Bowl ads have become as watched as the game itself. We’ve come a long way since Apple’s 1984 ad first alerted viewers that there still was something to see during the game’s commercial breaks.
With DVRs and digital media, we can avoid advertisements now but not during big, live events such as the Super Bowl. In an era in which our audience is more fragmented than ever, this is no small feat.
It used to be easier to get in front of everyone. You simply placed a national spot, and most people saw it. Then TV viewership got diffused thanks to cable, which was nothing compared to the disruption that happened when the Internet came along.
Today there aren’t that many places to get in front of the masses.
Other than the Super Bowl. Beyond viewership, why is the big game still so important for brands today? It provides a good lesson in digital dynamics.
Why Brands Have to Move
This semester I’m teaching a course on strategic brand positioning for MBAs at the University of Iowa. A big focus of the new material I’ve developed for the class is based on the fact that building brands is no longer enough.
Today we have to make sure that the brands that we’re building move as well.
“Where are these brands going?” you may ask. The short answer is they must move between everyone, everywhere — both online and off.
Why? Because a static brand just won’t cut it.
Word-of-mouth always has been the most compelling yet elusive marketing medium. While today’s digital media fragments our audience, it also provides one of the greatest advances in word-of-mouth that we’ve ever seen.
If someone previously had a positive interaction with your brand — great service, an engaging TV spot — they would activate word-of-mouth momentum by telling a few people who in turn would tell a few more. Today tools such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat have scaled this momentum exponentially.
But the opportunity is squandered if we don’t focus on building brands that move. Brands that move from person to person, platform to platform, and community to community.
So How Do You Move Your Brand?
First, basic brand building still matters. You have to have a solid brand grounded in strategy that stands for something.
But this certainly is no guarantee that your brand will move online or off.
This is where today’s digital dynamics come into play. When we create content in the form of blog posts and videos that help our customers, they will be more compelled to share it. When we embrace the power of our online community of fans and followers instead of hiding from them — worried about what they’ll say next — we align ourselves with a powerful ally.
The real-time nature of social media also provides us with the opportunity for rapid relevance. By creating a brand that connects with people and moves, you don’t have to wait for the water cooler the next day. You can create your own connective conversations online immediately.
Which brings us back to Super Bowl ads. More than being a carry-over of a bygone era, I would argue that these high-profile media moments actually are turbocharged examples of the new brand dynamics at play today.
The ads are more than simply the airtime. Smart marketers know it’s the sum total of touch points leading up to the ad and the conversations that follow after. Even the ones about Mountain Dew’s “puppy monkey baby.”
You don’t have to advertise during the Super Bowl to capitalize on these new digital dynamics. You just have to make sure that you’ve built a brand that can move downfield.
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• Nick Westergaard is founder of Brand Driven Digital, firstname.lastname@example.org, @nickwestergaard