The Super Bowl is a truly unique moment in television. Sure, the game can be great (and my wife is really happy as an Eagles fan), but I’m talking about the ads. Big brands bring out their big guns for the Super Bowl because it is a moment like no other – a whole season of one of the most popular sports in one of the richest nations comes down to a single 3 hour game.
Online entrepreneurs aren’t going to advertising on the Super Bowl anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn a thing or two from the ads that the big brands run. Actually, it’d be kind of foolish not to pay attention to those ads. These are the best ideas that these big brands and their high-dollar marketing and advertising teams come up with during a year.
This year, there were definitely some really great commercials, but, for my money, the best campaign award has to go to Tide. Sure there were individual commercials that were better than the individual Tide ads (Alexa losing her voice comes to mind), but Tide did some really amazing things that we can learn from throughout its entire campaign.
Here are 5 things we can all learn from the Tide commercials.
The first thing that really jumps out is that Tide managed to have all of its ads – even the short voiceover when the game came back from commercial – connect into a single message. Each of the ads hit a common theme – that the ad was brought to you by Tide because the clothes were all clean.
And the truly amazing thing about it was that the ads told a cohesive story without being a single story broken into parts. Tide’s approach differed from the Bud Light ads that were a multipart story. Rather than going for a multipart story, Tide opted for ads that would each make sense standing alone but that also weaved together into a broader fabric.
In my mind, this was truly genius. You weren’t left with a cliff hanger and didn’t have to wonder about the previous story if you caught only a later ad. But at the same time, people who saw all the ads were “in on the joke” and got an even bigger laugh.
As entrepreneur, this reminded me of the need to have a single, cohesive story that I am telling my audience. Ideally, each piece of marketing material can stand alone but will also have more value to “insiders.”
The key to this is knowing what your story is in the first place. That’s part of the Getting Started Phase of business that I talked about in last week’s post.
Once you know the story you want to tell, you can think about how to create marketing material that will fit with that overall story. Tide did that wonderfully with its ads, and we should all try our best to emulate Tide’s example.
The second thing that jumped out at me was how unexpected and surprising the first Tide ad was. When the ad started, the people I was watching the game with all started guessing what company was behind the ad. As you can imagine, NO ONE guessed that the ad was for Tide. The ad held off until the end to let us all in on the secret.
This approach keyed in on one of the triggers for great advertising and marketing – curiosity.
If you’ve read any books about copywriting, you’ll know that curiosity is one of the most valuable tools we have to grab readers. In How to Write Copy That Sells, Ray Edwards notes the importance of the curiosity factor in discussing headlines and bullet points.
Curiosity is so powerful because we (as humans) have a strong desire to get answers. We may not all be as obsessive about it as Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory, but we all tend to want closure. As marketers, we can use this desire for closure to our advantage with curiosity. When done right, curiosity hooks our audience to stick around until the end.
Great pieces of marketing often leave questions in the readers minds. The examples are endless, including soap opera email sequences where each message opens a curiosity loop for the next, email subject lines (and blog post headlines) that beg to be opened, and bullet points on sales page that make readers want to buy just to discover the answers.
So start thinking about how you can up the curiosity factor in your marketing efforts.
But there is an important caveat to this point. Tide’s ads were unexpected but they made sense after the reveal. In other words, you weren’t left scratching your head after the spots were over. You “got it” once you knew it was a Tide ad. So don’t go too far with curiosity. If you pass the line into cryptic, you’ll lose your audience rather than hook them.
The third truly amazing part about the Tide ads actually stems for a combination of them having a great hook and using the unexpected. The hook was simple: “the clean clothes in this ad are brought to you by Tide.” The simplicity was great, but the true genius of the hooks is that it would apply almost universally to all the ads we would see during the game regardless of what product was being advertised.
The result was kind of amazing to me…
I don’t know about you, but I found myself wondering whether EVERY ad that came on during the game (you know, including ones from other companies) was going to be a Tide ad. Until each ad made clear that it was for a different product or company, I started to assume it was a Tide ad.
By combining the unexpected approach with the universal hook, Tide managed to stay top of mind throughout the entire game.
It may not always be possible to find a hook for your marketing that will accomplish this, but it sure is worth a try. Think about it for a second, how much would you love it for your target audience to think about you and your product or service when they see an advertisement paid for by someone else?
If you can find a hook that will accomplish this, you have hit pay dirt. At that point, you have found marketing dollar multipliers. So be on the lookout for a universal hook that you could use.
For me, the single most memorable Tide ad was the one that started with a shot of a Clydesdale horse running in a field. I literally shushed everyone in the room when it came on.
Why was that ad so memorable to me?
Because I am so conditioned to see Budweiser ads with Clydesdales during the game and have such fond memories of those ads. I am always excited when I see the beginning of a Clydesdales ad because I am conditioned to expect a really cool ad to follow.
Tide’s marketing team clearly played on that general conditioning by using the Clydesdale imagery in the ad. It was, in a sense, joining an existing conversation that we have all come to expect during the game. And it did it with a funny twist to boot.
We should all try to find similar avenues for our own marketing. Rather than trying to start a conversation, we will be much better off if we can find a way to join an existing conversation.
To pick one example of a way I do this, when I see a conversation in any of the Facebook Groups I’m in about where to grab stock images, I always make a point to chime in to make sure people know about getting the right kind of license for the image. If possible, I find a way to weave in a link to opt-in to receive my Ultimate Stock Image Guide freebie. Or maybe I slip a link into a blog post about ads by Tide during a football game.
If you can find a way to join the conversations your audience is already having, you’ll have a much easier time reaching them.
The most interesting lesson from the ads to me was that Tide applied the good old advice we’ve all heard… it sold the transformation it’s product provides. If you think about it, these ads were completely different from the typical detergent ads. The typical detergent commercial shows someone doing laundry and then touts some features and benefits of the product (color safe, stain fighting, etc.).
Even the outside-the-box detergent ads tend to show the results in a predictable way… the ad shows someone spilling on their clothes and then shows the mess magically disappearing thanks to the detergent (Persil’s ad during the game is an example).
Tide went a completely different way. It didn’t show anyone doing laundry, didn’t show dirty clothes, didn’t tout any of its features, didn’t discuss its benefits. Tide simply showed you the end result – clean clothes. Tide has us imagine where we would be after using its product. At the end of the day, that’s what we want as consumers.
This aspect of Tide’s commercials is directly applicable to online entrepreneurs. We should be focusing on the RESULTS our products and services provide.
Too often, people focus on the features or maybe something they think of as benefits. Those have their place, but the most important thing to help your audience understand and feel is where they will be after using your product or service. This is where the “imagine how it will feel when” line of thinking comes into play.
It may feel a bit cheesy at times, but the best approach is generally to sell the results.
Tide’s ad campaign has some really valuable lessons for online entrepreneurs. We can all stand to learn a thing or two from the big guys.
Bobby Klinck is an intellectual property attorney, but he’s not your typical lawyer. Sure, he went to Harvard Law School and worked at some of the most prestigious firms in the country, but if you look at the big whiteboard in his office, you won’t see much about the law. His whiteboard is filled with tasks related to platform building, inbound marketing, and sales-funnels. Bobby is a full-fledged online entrepreneur, whose area of expertise is the law.