Tag Archives: best Super Bowl commercials

The Strategy Behind Budweiser’s Super Bowl Ad – Born The Hard Way

3 Feb

bud-2     During America’s most important game, Budweiser may have produced America’s most important and timely message—by accident.

     For the first time in memory, Budweiser’s Super Bowl ad keeps its Clydesdales in the stable and the puppies on a short leash.   This ad reminds viewers of the core values of Adolphus Busch, a German immigrant who risked all to travel an ocean and half the North American continent with nothing more than an idea in his head and drawings in his Journal.   The ad is not selling beer as much as it’s selling an idea.   That idea is that dreams are hard.   And when those dreams are fulfilled it can produce success.

     Called “Born the Hard Way” the ad comes at a timely crossroads when the national discussion about immigration and who has the right to become an American is debated from TV screens to coffee shops.   Not only is the theme familiar, so is the language.   As Adolphus Busch gets his papers stamped in New York you can hear the voices in the crowd shout, “Go back home.  You’re not wanted here.”

    Anheuser-Busch executives say the ad is meant to celebrate the American dream.  In its press release rolling out the ad, Mike Byrne, the chief creative officer of ad agency Anomaly Global said the inspiration came from Budweiser itself.  “When Budweiser told us they wanted to celebrate those who embody the American spirit, we realized the ultimate story lived within their own brand history,” said Byrne.  “Adolphus Busch is the hero of the Anheuser-Busch American dream story, which makes him the perfect protagonist.” attitude-toward-the-ad-001

     The ad’s story has little to do with selling beer and everything to do with building brand equity.  This is not a transactional advertisement trying to convince the viewer that Budweiser is a superior product that offers a unique selling proposition to solve a problem or improve one’s life.   The strategy is to build a positive emotional connection to the brand.   It’s what consumer psychologists and advertising scholar John Eighmey call “attitude toward the ad.”  If the viewer enjoys and likes the advertisement, it is likely to have a positive effect on his or her attitude about the beliefs and expectations of the brand or its product. (Figure 1)   In this case, if you like the ad, you’ll like Budweiser–and just maybe buy a six-pack the next time you’re at the store.  It’s virtually the same psychological formula used in every Super Bowl ad—a popularity contest.

     Many will argue that Anheuser-Busch is trying to make a political statement.  If it was, it’s perhaps by complete accident.  But it’s no accident that people viewing this ad through the lens of their own values and political beliefs have caused the viral explosion of more than 6 million YouTube views even before the big game’s kick off.  Consumer psychologist Richard Bagozzi has established that mood directly influences one’s cognitive processing and attitudes towards advertisements.  If one holds a negative mood toward immigration, they are more than likely to view Budweiser’s ad with a negative feeling.  

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Picture 1

     The time it takes to produce such an ad means that its director Chris Sargent had to start production months before President Trump’s executive orders to temporarily reset the nation’s immigration policies.  Even then, executives at Anheuser-Busch would be reluctant to risk a brand as big as Budweiser by taking a political stand in a highly polarized consumer marketplace.  It would also be naive to believe Budweiser didn’t think it would cause controversy.  This is where it takes a strong brand, and brave marketing executives willing to stimulate discussion.

     Indeed, in the hours leading up to the Super Bowl, Budweiser doubled down on its social media sites inviting followers to learn more about he heritage of the brand by viewing the advertisement.  (Picture 1)

    In some ways the new ad makes sense for Budweiser.  Having temporarily rebranded the beer as “America” last summer, the new ad attaches a powerful story to the name.  But without the horses and dogs Super Bowl viewers have come to expect, Budweiser might be advancing its new message the hard way. 

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When Super Bowl Ads Are Fun and Strategic

27 Feb

Super Bowl 15 3     The Budweiser puppy is finally home and Doritos showed how with a little ingenuity, pigs really can fly.   The viewers of Super Bowl XLIX have crowned their favorite ads and picked their winners and losers.   But for many advertisers, this is more than a popularity contest.  It’s also their chance to make a unique statement to a targeted audience and asking them to make a specific decision.

     Perhaps the two most creatively strategic ads where ironically from car brands.  Both Fiat and Mercedes Benz used their 60 second TV time-outs to launch new products and showcase them directly to men at opposite ends of the economic ladder. 

      For Fiat, that new product is a sexier, pumped-up, all-wheel drive version of its sub-compact 500, called the 500X.  And, it found a rather creative way to take something small and grow it into something… big.

     Mercedes Benz took a different but equally strategic approach by segmenting upper income men with a message about speed and breaking away from pack of bulky luxury cars.

      These ads did more than entertain.  Both used well recognized story lines to serve as a metaphor to make a highly strategic statement to potential buyers. (Figure 1)  Fiat’s target audience is young urban men who have not yet climbed the economic ladder but want to look smart, hip and slightly sophisticated in their purchases.  With a starting price of $20,000 the Fiat 500X ideally fits into their budget with Fiat making the value proposition that this is the pumped-up sexy car to showcase their lifestyle. 

Figure 1

Figure 1

      Mercedes Benz makes a similar argument, but clearly aimed at highly affluent men who want to live life in the “faster lane.”   Priced at $130,000 this is a car that has a very narrow market segmentation within the luxury car category but makes but makes the appeal that the owner will drive a new race—and be seen differently among his peers.  

Figure 2

Figure 2

      The goal of any advertisement is to drive interest and ultimately sales.  As product introduction ads, initial research suggest they were high successful at placing viewers into the top of the marketing funnel.  Data from Google Trends suggest an exponential increase in web searches on both cars immediately after the Super Bowl.  (Figure 2)

      It helps that both ads have also been viral hits on YouTube gathering millions of more views.  Let’s face it, they’re fun.  And when advertising can be fun and strategic their power only increases.

Four Best Super Bowl Ads That Were Anything But Boring

3 Feb

Super Bowl 2014 Collage

     The big game is over.  More than 96 million viewers watched Denver and GoDaddy embarrass themselves.   At the same time Seattle re-wrote the rules on what it takes to be champions, and in between some of the world’s most powerful brands helped reshape our attitudes and beliefs on what it means to be Americans.   We are a country that builds great cars, embodies diversity, welcomes home our troops, and yes, swoons over puppies. 

General Mills' Super Bowl ad "Gracie."

General Mills’ Super Bowl ad “Gracie.”

      This was the year when several brands and their agencies appeared to turn a creative corner.  The bondage of uninspired play-it-safe advertising brought on by the Great Recession has loosened its grip.  Yes, there were still moments where it appeared the messaging was written by 13 years old boys (I’m looking at you, Butterfinger), but there were many more examples of creative bravery, among them Cheerios’ “Gracie.”   

      There are a multitude of post-game rankings sizing up the Super Bowl XLVIII ads, this one is merely an analysis of three that exemplified creative and strategic brand communication, and one that excelled in extending viewer engagement beyond the TV screen.   

     Part of the mark of a confident and strong brand is consistency.   We clearly saw that in two exceptional ads from Chrysler and Coca-Cola.   Since the easing of the Great Recession, Chrysler has positioned itself as America’s “comeback kid.”  It’s given us Eminem, Paul Harvey, and Clint Eastwood who proclaimed it “Halftime in America.”  This year Chrysler gave us Bob Dylan, another American original to say, “You can’t import originality.” 

      The Bob Dylan ad strikes at an important business insight and a critical strategic value proposition: Nobody builds cars better than America, and nobody in America builds cars better than Chrysler.   Using Dylan as the human metaphor for originality and legacy makes the proposition especially salient.   

         Another original American brand reminded us that what makes us original is our differences. Coca-Cola hit the mark with its ad called “It’s Beautiful.”  As one of the world’s most recognized brands with assets in virtually every country, Coca-Cola embodies diversity.   What Coke is selling here is acceptance, empowerment and the happiness that comes when you embrace shared moments—and a Coke—with others.   Its ad by Wieden + Kenney is a powerful brand extension that bravely comes from one the few brands strong enough to pull it off.

     Brave communication was not just cornered by Coca-Cola.   Chevy Silverado leveraged a lot of its own brand equity to say something about cancer—without speaking a word.   

      The silent schema of a solemn ride down a country road in a Silverado pickup  forces the viewer to cognitively elaborate about what is and what is not happening.    The three most powerful cues:  the shaved head, the teary eye, and the embraced hands.   Together they force the viewer to create their own story, form their own attitude, and create the belief that they can take action by supporting the American Cancer Society’s Purple Roads campaign.   The underlying message is not about the truck, but the journey of strength the truck allows one to take.  It’s emotional, powerful, and strategic.

 

     Finally, Toyota’s Super Bowl campaign is notable for not what it did on the TV screen, but what it did on other screens. 

Picture 2 - Swedish Chef telling fellow Muppets they're heading to the "Sferndy Boom."  (Super Bowl)

Picture 1 – Swedish Chef telling fellow Muppets they’re heading to the “Sferndy Boom.” (Super Bowl)

     Toyota’s agency Saachi & Saachi employed the Muppets for a campaign to promote the all-new Highlander SUV targeted strategically at upwardly mobile parents with chaotic families.   And who better to symbolize a loveable, dysfunctional American family than the Muppets?  The unique selling proposition of the campaign is that the Highlander has room for everything inside but boring.   

    To prove their point, Toyota branched out on three separate channels to engage viewers in its “No Room for Boring” campaign.   It started with a YouTube video announcing a road trip to the Super Bowl that of course, went terribly wrong.  (Picture 1)

     The Muppets also took to Twitter taking over the Toyota page to actively engage with Super Bowl viewers during the game. (Figure 1) 

Figure 1 - Interactive Tweets with Pepe and the Muppets on @Toyota

Figure 1 – Interactive Tweets with Pepe and the Muppets on @Toyota

    Finally, the Muppets used Vine to send several short videos of Pepe trying to watch the game from the back of the Highlander.

Picture 1 - Blotz family Tweeting during Super Bowl.

Picture 2 – Blotz family Tweeting during Super Bowl.

      The strategic insight in all of this is that the Super Bowl is no longer a TV-only event.   It’s a multi-screen interactive social village where viewers share and exchange the experience on Twitter, Facebook and other social channels.  It happened even in my own house by evidence of the Instagram picture shared by my wife with her caption, “Remember when people WATCHED the @SuperBowl?”  Guilty as charged. (Picture 2)  During the broadcast, Twitter reported 24.9 million Tweets, that’s 800,000 more than Super Bowl XVLII.

     As the price for Super Bowl ads continues to climb, Toyota’s foray into interactive space is the model more brands are likely to copy.   Not only does it create for a more entertaining and meaningful brand experience, it’s also relatively free.

      Four brands, four distinct messages.   Unlike Denver, they brought their A-game.

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      For more expert analysis of the Super Bowl ads, I invite you to follow John Eighmey’s The Psychology of Advertising.     

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