Each year, in the run-up to the Super Bowl, we brand wranglers find ourselves with a strong sense of anticipation: who will win the ad-meter? Who will make a major misstep? Who will be the buzz at the water cooler on Monday? Once the event passes, researchers rush to measure the impacts of their clients' advertising: was it enjoyable to watch? Will it drive sales? Did anyone remember it? With even general-purpose media outlets covering the advertising bonanza, it's easy to assume that, at least in February, Super Bowl advertising is the center of the cultural universe.
With all of the Super Hype, it's easy to get caught up in "Football FOMO" (Fear of Missing Out). With skyrocketing costs -- the price of a 30-second Super Bowl ad is now $166,666 per second -- and shrinking media budgets, does it make sense to devote such a large portion of money to one ad?
I want to alleviate your anxiety. If you're an advertiser, feel free to skip the Super Bowl. Super Bowl advertising relies on old-fashioned notions of loyalty and capture. Traditionally, the goal of branding has been to establish a foothold with loyal customers. "The Dawn of the Promiscuous Shopper," our recently released eBook exploring this topic, contends that consumers are more willing to stray than ever when it comes to purchasing new products. Rather than spending big to capture consumers once-and-for-all, a more nimble approach sees marketing as an ongoing process of engaging customers and aligning with their needs and values.
In the era of the promiscuous shopper, missing out on the Super Bowl ad blitz may not be something to fear:
- Working with brand data day-in and day-out, market researchers notice two times a year where brand awareness has a tendency to drop: Holiday shopping season and Super Bowl ad season. These are the most over-crowded times of year for advertisers, with everyone loudly shouting their message in an attempt to be heard over the din. If your goal is to expand your reach, this is one of the worst times to increase your awareness. Unless you're a rare break-out hit, you will likely find your ad ignored. And even break-out hits are quickly forgotten. Who remembers the best ads last year?
- If you're a small- or medium-sized brand, and you truly believe that football fanatics are your core customers, a Super Bowl ad may seem like an appealing way to spend your budget. However, just as consumers probably have more choice in your category, football fans have myriad ways to engage with the big game. With countless sports media and social media opportunities, a big ad spend on the main broadcast may not even be the best way to reach core football fans.
- If you're a nationwide car or beer manufacturer, a Super Bowl ad is probably a good choice for your brand. However, keeping your customer engaged with your advertisement will be a challenge. Moreover, an over-the-top, blowout ad that doesn't align with both your brand promise and your customers' needs may leave customers remembering your great creatives while forgetting what it was they were supposed to purchase at the end of the ad. The goal of the ad shouldn't be a "one-and-done," but instead to build a lasting memory as the basis for a broader pitch, whether that's a continued campaign or just continuing to push a consistent message. This allows your Super Bowl investment to pay dividends for your brand in the future.
If you're a brand looking to make an impact, don't fall victim to "Football FOMO" and worry about your lack of Super Bowl presence. Your target customers won't notice your absence, and more importantly reaching them through a Super Bowl ad may make you blend into the crowd. If your goal is to stand out to your best potential customers, finding the channels and messages that align with their needs and their lifestyles is more important than ever in the era of the promiscuous shopper. These more affordable marketing efforts won't necessarily receive media accolades or advertising awards, but may just produce a better return-on-investment.