13 Marketing Lessons Smart Entrepreneurs Could Learn from Watching Super Bowl Commercials – The Marketing Mentors

13 Marketing Lessons Smart Entrepreneurs Could Learn from Watching Super Bowl Commercials




Next time anyone gives you a hard time about watching the Super Bowl game, tell them you’re doing it to grow your business and boost your sales and profits.

That’s right! The key is to know what to look for.

With nearly half (49%) of American households watching Super Bowl 50 chances are you too tuned in for the final game. But for most people it’s just a few hours of entertainment; they miss out on priceless marketing education.

So whether you tuned in for the game, or the half-time show… And whether your team took home the trophy, or gave a pouty interview afterwards… If you’re an entrepreneur I sure hope you paid attention to the commercials because there’s a lot you can learn from them.


A Different Look at Super Bowl Ads


Now this is not about evaluating and ranking all the ads. There are plenty of sites that already do that. Frankly, those are highly subjective. An ad that you and I would consider a dud could’ve been a perfect match for the right audience.

Ultimately the only thing that matters is if paying the $5 million price tag for airing it during the final game was worth it to the company. If they got their desired ROI out of it – good for them.

Instead, let’s look at the big picture – the entire phenomena of Super Bowl Commercials. Now, there are priceless lessons to be gotten from that!

Lessons that can get you more visibility, stretch your advertising buck, and fill your pipeline with leads and clients – if you just know what to look for and how to apply it to your situation. That’s what this article is about.

Of course, talking about these lessons wouldn’t be complete (and definitely not fun!) without a sprinkling of those commercials included for your viewing pleasure for strictly educational purposes! ;) Here we go…


1. Evaluate Your Options.


At $5 million for a 30 second spot, chances are you and I won’t be making this kind of marketing budget decision any time soon.  But we still have options how to spend our marketing time, effort and dollars.

Adweek lists a few different marketing campaigns $5 million could buy you. But even at your budget, you have choices.




Yet sometimes we get so attached to one promotional tactic that we forget to evaluate what else we could do with the same resources.


2. Prepare In Advance. 


The Avocados From Mexico started testing their commercials in October of 2015 (for the February 2016 airing.) They developed four different versions of an ad and ultimately ran the one that scored the best in their tests.



They also released their ad in advance, giving them a bunch of viral play, but that’s another lesson I’ll cover later.

Whether you’re crafting a book title, writing a sales letter for a big launch, developing a webinar opt-in page headline, or writing your next blog post – don’t just settle for the first idea that pops into your head.

Consider different promotional hooks. Run them by your audience to see how they respond. Weeding out a losing proposition before you invest a bunch of money to put it in front of your potential clients is just a smart idea.

There’s a famous story of Tim Ferris running Google ads with different headlines when coming up with a title for his first book. The 4 Hour Work Week was born because it was the title that got the most clicks.

Here’s a quick, real life example. Just as I was writing this article I noticed that a well known speaker and author asked his Facebook audience for help with selecting the best cover for his next book.

At the time of this writing 159 people chimed in. While this is not the most scientific way of testing your ideas, it’s better than a total shot in the dark.


3. Build Anticipation.


Next to scarcity, curiosity and anticipation are two huge psychological triggers. Yet marketers don’t use them often enough.

I bet that at some point you’ve watched a TV program ranking the “best of” commercials! I sure have done it! That’s crazy – we’re willingly spending our time exposing ourselves to blatant promotions.

For the last decade CBS is hosting their “Greatest Super Bowl Commercials” program about the week before the final game.

They often air several teasers for the new ads too, which only hypes up the audience – making us anticipate the full commercials even more!

Why this matters?

Consider this: There were over 60 national Super Bowl 2016 commercials (and plenty more regional.) 40 of them were released early. And there were 130 “teaser ads” created and released before the final game weekend. The results?

The ads that were released early got 2.2 times more views!

Here’s an example of a teaser commercial from Kia:



How can you use this?

When you’re planning something “big” in your business, don’t hold it a secret until the day you make it available for sale. From mentions in your emails and blog posts to early bird specials – and a whole lot of things in between – let your audience know you’re cooking up something special.

For example, knowing I’ll be writing this article, I’ve been teasing my Snapchat audience that something special is coming… Even though it’s “only” an article.

Another example. A few days ago we sent an invite for our next event to some of our subscribers. This was totally “out of a blue” – no warm up, no prior warning.

But while the invitation was limited to just our graduate clients we “accidentally” included more people on the distribution list effectively making them aware what we are doing.

Now future announcements won’t be a shock; they will simply be providing more info about something my audience already knows of.  (It’s especially effective if you withhold some information. This way your audience know what’s coming, but they have to stay tuned to get the final details.)


4. Make Your Marketing Dollars Work Harder.


This idea is somewhat related to my first point – considering your options. But it goes further.

Because I’m talking about using different delivery platforms and social media sites to drum up more attention for your main “thing.”

What you might not know is that in addition to dropping big bucks on 30-second TV spots during the Super Bowl, these big brands are also spending even more money on getting their message out in advance via social media.

The idea is not just run the ad once – but to make people first anticipate it and then talk about it and share it with others.

For example, Taco Bell invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to get several Snapchat influencers to create entire mini commercials and “adventure stories” leading up to the big  reveal of their newest menu item – the quesalupa.

How can you use this in your business? 

Use different social media sites to let people know when you’re working on something. (And yes, it builds anticipation, too.) For example, since I knew I’d be writing this article I was hinting that I’ll be sharing something special with my audience on Snapchat.

But this idea applies to existing content, too.

Look through your current blog posts, select catchy sound bites and turn them into social media posts. Turn a few main points of your blog posts into slides and post them on SlideShare. Turn those slides into a short video and add it to YouTube.

With each post include links back to your full article.

And in the article itself identify catchy phrases and turn them into click-able, sharable quotes.


5. Get Others To Pay For Your Marketing.


Well, at least part of it. A great example of it is the Wix commercial that’s “piggy backing” on the Kung Fu Panda 3 movie release.



By combining their messages (and most likely sharing the advertising costs) both brands got more exposure for less.

When I ran my restaurants in the 90’s I routinely had companies like Kraft and Snapple copay for my advertising – simply by featuring their logos in my ads.

How can you apply this?

Ask yourself who else could benefit from your advertising efforts. Are you working with any vendors who would benefit from exposure to your clients? Make a list of such people and companies.

Then figure out how to approach them and structure a win-win deal that will help you create bigger marketing campaigns without more money out of your pocket.

Note: One way to apply is to have people sponsor your live events or even webinars!


6. Engage Your Audience (With a Clear Call To Action.)


When you combine the power of anticipation, social media and a clear call to action you can exponentially increase your reach. Just like Esurance did.

Even though they selected a less costly spot for their commercial in the pre-game time frame, they ended up racking up the most attention and exposure. How?

They used sweepstakes with clear instructions what they wanted the viewers to do to participate. (And offered nice incentives for viewers to act – that’s yet another lesson!)



Esurance gave away $50,000 to several people who retweeted its Super Bowl pregame ad hashtag, #esurancesweepstakes, and it gave $250,000 to a grand-prize winner.

That hashtag was tweeted 2.48 million times by Monday afternoon, helping generate 1.5 billion media impressions. And their video got over 100 million views online – that’s nearly as many viewers as the entire Super Bowl. Not bad.

The company that came second in terms of online views (with only a third of the exposure Esurance got) was a controversial ad for Doritos (I’ll tell you about it in lesson #11.)


7.  Connect to something people care about.


It’s not a secret that Americans lover their pets. Budweiser has exploited this for years with their ad featuring a story of a friendship between a puppy and a horse.

This year Doritos tapped into our love for dogs with one of their ads. Who cares that dogs most likely don’t eat Doritos – people enjoy watching cute and clever dogs outsmarting a store manager to get their “hands” on the chips no one seems to be able to resist.



How can you apply this?

I’m sure you’ve seen how some clever companies use their “four-legged employees” in their marketing materials. You certainly could do something similar.

But your options are not limited to animals. Just ask yourself what’s something that’s not directly business related that your customers care about?

It could be classic cars, jazz music, riding Harley motorcycles, or a number of other things. Then create promotions that remind your audience about their passion.


9.  Make People Feel…


When we laugh or cry with someone we instantly connect with them. Those emotions bond us together. Want your marketing make people instantly think of you as someone they connect with and can trust?

Tell a story that will make people burst with laughter or get teary-eyed!

I’m a dad. So the first-date story in Hyundai’s commercial made me laugh out laud. My “little” girls are in their 20’s now, but now and then I still get the urge to shift into my “protective dad” mode.

Plus Hyundai did an awesome job presenting a feature without getting technical about it. It was almost on the level of Steve Job iPod introduction – “imagine a thousand songs in your pocket.” (That’s actually very important; I probably should’ve listed this point as a separate lesson!)



And Jeep did an awesome job with their commercial making us feel a bit nostalgic and tapping into our natural desire for adventure.

Using powerful music, black and white photos and emotions-evoking words they shared a story of their company’s long history by connecting it to historical events, famous people and pop culture we can all relate to. (NOTE: Sadly, Jeep seems to have removed all videos of that commercial online. Here’s the only “bootleg” copy of it I could still find.)



10 . Be Controversial…


One of the fastest way to get attention is controversy. Nothing makes people sit up and notice what’s going on as effectively as seeing something unexpected that shocks them and maybe even rubs them the wrong way.

You have to really know your audience to pull this off.  Done correctly, controversy is a powerful trigger of attracting just the right audience and creating raving fans. But be careful not to push it too far.

Companies like GoDaddy and Carl’s Jr. are notorious for using sex in their commercials to do just that – spark a controversy and get attention of just the right audience.

This year one of the commercials for Doritos shocked the viewers with something unexpected. And the scene showing a fetus literally “chasing after the chips” became the controversial talk of the town. And Doritos has the viral sharing numbers to prove it.




11. Start Your Own Conversation.


While making people laugh is generally good, humor alone is not enough to turn your marketing efforts into success.

As you’ll see in a moment,  using humor can completely back-fire when it’s confusing or when it’s used to compensate for lack of a unique core marketing message.

Here’s what I mean. A while back Verizon created an ad that demonstrated their advantage over other wireless networks in a very clever, visual way by dropping a bunch of different color and different size balls down a miniature slide.

Since the ad first came out, Sprint has already created their own ad that copied that idea and attempted to respond by cutting their prices in half – never a good move!

Now  T-Mobile did the same thing during the Super Bowl.



T-Mobile tried to be funny by featuring the entertainer Steve Harvey and spoofing his recent blunder during the Miss Universe Pageant.

However, that wasn’t enough. That commercial still played right into Verizon’s message – we’re superior in every way. In short, now the other networks are spending their money to talk about Verizon – because they can’t come up with their own message.  Bad move!

How can you apply this?

Take the time to research your market, evaluate your competitors and craft your own unique message. Be careful to start the conversations in your market and not react to those started by others.


12. Cute and Clever Without CLEAR Is Just Stupid.


Another example of humor gone wrong was Mountain Dew’s ad with something called “PuppyMonkeyBaby.”



Now, you have to consider their target market. But even with that, while the ad has got some viral play on social media, it was mostly surrounded by negative comments. People just didn’t get it.

A tip for you…

When creating your marketing campaigns make sure that you don’t let cute, clever and funny drown out their real message you want to communicate.


13. Repeat What Works!


Just because you used your promotion once it doesn’t mean that it can’t be used again. In case of the Super Bowl nearly half of the US population tuned in to watch the final game giving each advertiser huge visibility. But that still leaves the other half.

Plus, repetition creates trust.  So, naturally, it’s in each company’s interest to have people watch those ads more than once. That’s why they have a post-game plan.

The ads continue to live on YouTube and other social networks. Articles are written to evaluate their effectiveness. Countless websites and TV programs hold contest encouraging people to vote which ad was best, worst, funniest or most confusing.

All this makes people watch the ads again and again.

How can you maximize the life of your promotions?

  • Feature your ads on your own website. If you invested into creating a great campaign it will serve as a nice credibility booster for you.
  • Turn print ads into mailers.  Turn video into online files, or put them on a DVD.  And share them with all your prospects via direct mail or email.
  • You can also repeat your entire campaign two, even three times a year. It works because many people didn’t see it. Some saw it and forgot about it. Still others might have seen it, but weren’t ready to act on it before – and now they are.

Bottom line, with a little extra effort you can get a lot of extra mileage from your campaigns.

There you have it 13 ways watching and learning Super Bowl commercial can make you a better marketer and help you grow your business.

So what now?

Obviously you’ll want to review these ideas and explore how you can immediately employ them for yourself. And even before that…


I’d Love To Hear From You…


  • Let me know which of these lessons was the biggest aha for you.
  • And what other ideas you got for your business from watching Super Bowl?

Comment below and let me know…

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Adam Urbanski

I'm Adam Urbanski, founder and CEO of The Marketing Mentors. Thousands of entrepreneurs world-wide call me the Millionaire Marketing Mentor and I'm the go-to guy experts turn to when they want to attract more clients and grow their businesses fast. Since 2000 I've helped thousands of people start and grow successful businesses. Many of my clients and students from dozens of countries on every continent now enjoy multiple six, even seven figure incomes. On this blog I share effective marketing strategies that are easy to understand and simple to deploy. You can connect with me beyond this blog on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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