Former marketing executives for Starbucks, RadioShack, and Chuck E. Cheeses critique spots; comment on strategy
While Chief Outsiders fractional CMOs typically work with mid-sized companies, there are always lessons to learn from large-scale marketing bets, especially the ads from the Super Bowl. The key question is this: Can advertising in the Super Bowl be strategic?
According to Rich DePencier, now a Chief Outsider and former VP Global Consumer Products of Starbucks, it can be a one of the most strategic decisions a company can ever make. His favorite example? “The most well-known is the story of Master Lock. This “Tough Under Fire” bullet-piercing padlock brand legendarily spent 75% of their annual budget to advertise one time a year in a 30 sec commercial Super Bowl spot from 1974-1996, Rich shares. “By delivering their brand promise (security) in a powerful and highly memorable commercial, they cemented their market leadership for 20+ years behind the most meaningful equity in their category.”
While today’s massive +$5 million cost for one 30 second spot might seem like a bet too big for a company to make, consider this: a company willing to deliver a powerful, memorable promise of their brand’s equity can capture the interest of 110 million people at one time...and then get tweeted, snapchatted and posted to millions more. At last count, last year’s favorite commercial winners were seen 170 million times on YouTube. So, when delivering a message to a mass US consumer or even business professional audience is mission-critical, the investment may be justified.
Who were the winners this year?
According to Chief Outsider Rich DePencier, former VP Global Consumer Products of Starbucks:
“For 2019, there were truly some excellent brand commercials. There were also, unfortunately, several expensive comedy skits that will get a chuckle and not be remembered a week from now. Among the fan favorites for delivering brand equity in a compelling and engaging way will certainly be: Pepsi’s “More Than Ok” with Steve Carell/Cardi B/Lil Jon (cool), Budweiser’s “Wind Never Felt Better” (benevolence) and Colgate’s “Close Talker” with Luke Wilson (confidence). These three brands drove their equities in a highly engaging way.
“Hyundai’s “The Elevator” wins for best and most creative use of insight to build their brand equity. Hyundai used celebrity to deliver a distinctly humorous connection into the restless and anxious feelings of car buying. With their new Shopper Assurance program, instead of making their way through one of life’s most aggravating moments, buyers can now expect transparent pricing, 3-day worry free return and flexible test drives. With deep insight and humor as a hook, Hyundai has positioned itself as a solution to a real life pain point. There is little doubt Hyundai just grabbed the empty playing field of trustworthiness in the car buying hierarchy of needs. Maslow would be proud.
“Straight to the heart of female empowerment with conviction, confidence and experience, Bumble’s captivating spot from Serena Williams wins hands down for this year’s most powerful commercial. Motivating women to recognize “you already had the power,” this app which originally set out to challenge antiquated dating norms is now evolving into a lifestyle brand that is a welcoming place for career networking, making friends or dating online. Serena’s authenticity and credibility in her delivery leaves an indelible imprint for parents. It’s a safe bet that Bumble hits skyrocketing levels of registrations and downloads this week as the brand grabs that unclaimed space between LinkedIn, dating sites and your best friend on the couch. Kudos to Bumble!
“Alexa’s “Not Everything Makes the Cut” overwhelmingly captures the highly competitive brand positioning as the innovation leader, the golden crown of a technology brand. By getting a humorous peak behind-the-curtain into several dramatic failures, the brand warmly welcomes us into the living room of their house for simple, self-effacing storytelling. All of life’s little leadership tips - never give up, challenge the status quo, learn from mistakes, don’t take yourself seriously, have fun - all wrapped up in one highly engaging spot leaves us believing they are spending time and money on what’s next around the corner. All we are missing is the last frame saying “Alexa. We’re just getting started!”.
According to Chief Outsider Jim McDonald, former CMO of RadioShack:
“I found this year’s super bowl ads especially strategically interesting because of two themes: Cause Marketing as a brand differentiator and ROI for the extreme media and production expenses.
“Two spots that employed Cause Marketing were Budweiser and Stella Artois. With Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind playing while seeing the Clydesdales majestically pulling the wagon, with the ears and cheeks flapping-in-the-wind dalmatian perched on top, provided highly frontal leverage from both an emotional dog-loving nation basis and the smart use of Bud’s powerful brand equities. The "Now Brewed with Wind Power” super reveal at the end and tagline "This Bud’s for a Better Tomorrow.” drove home the cause marketing powerfully and the spot stood out in marked contrast to past Budweiser spots that stopped at just using animals and schmaltz to make us feel good about the brand.
“In contrast to Bud’s frontal approach, Stella Artois juxtaposed two hugely popular characters--Carrie Bradshaw of Sex in the City fame and The Dude of counterculture epic The Great Lebowski. Instead of her trademark Cosmo drink and his standard White Russian/Caucasian concoction, both order a Stella Artois beer to “Change Up the Usual”. I admired the spot for the ambition of directly trying to precipitate a change in human behavior. But lost in the creative shuffle was the added bonus of cause marketing. In a very small type in the the last frame of the commercial it says "To #PourItForward visit StellaArtois.com/DoGood”.
“My top 3 were: Stella Artois, Hyundai and Skechers. All 3 were engaging and funny but they were also smart, hard-working ads with a clear message and point of difference.”
According to Chief Outsider Jon Rice, former VP Marketing of Chuck E. Cheeses:
“Jason Bateman ‘You’re going down’ Hyundai Shopper Assurance was a great commercial. It was a clever and entertaining concept, informative, and (unlike so many of the other SB spots) it featured a celebrity in a way that didn’t take away from the message. It made me want to know more.”
“The Stella Artois spot was my personal favorite. I like beer, The Big Lebowski, and Sarah JP, however, in order to understand the point of the ad you need to be familiar with the characters and their traditional drinks. I doubt that most of the viewers were in on the joke.”
“The most bizarre and intriguing spot was Burger King’s Andy Warhol. What was that all about?”
“I thought the Budweiser spot was outstanding from a branding an image building communication effort. My personal reaction wasn’t all positive since I thought using Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind (viewed by many, although not Dylan himself, as a protest song) was a misappropriation and I know the brewing process at AB is powered by fossil fuels (gas burners for the mash tanks), therefore the assertion that they use wind power to make Bud is probably a lie.”
Advertising of Any Kind Needs to Be Formed from Solid Strategy and Insight
Before any of these Super Bowl advertisers spent a nickel on these ads, you can be assured they invested heavily, sometimes continuously, into understanding their consumers, defining the position they wanted to obtain and the resulting message they wanted to deliver. Overall, businesses of all sizes and industries need to do the same: be in touch with your marketplace, align your business and your offerings to your target customers, then execute the go-to-market strategy. These concepts can be explored in this Amazon #1 best-selling book, The Growth Gears, written by Chief Outsiders’ principals Art Saxby and Pete Hayes.