Small Business Marketing Takeaways From Super Bowl Commercials

Most small businesses didn’t have $5.5 million lying around to air a 30-second commercial during this year’s Super Bowl (plus the cost to create the ad). But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn something valuable from these ads. Take a look at these gridiron takeaways and see if you can apply them to your business.

Take advantage of free market research.

Big companies don’t spend $5 million lightly. Their shareholders expect a return on that investment. So companies do their homework to make sure it’s a hit with current and prospective customers. That includes market research. How many in their target market will watch this TV event? What messages and images will resonate with them? What tone will appeal to them—humorous, informational, inspirational? As you watch them, consider whether they were successful and why.

Now think about your brand and how you communicate with your target market.  Can you capitalize on their market research with customers from a similar market segment? For example, this 2021 Jeep ad features an inspirational message of unity. A local business could sponsor a community garden and invite the public to join in. The harvest from this unifying venture could be donated to a local food pantry.

Sell a story, not a product.

Many Super Bowl ads aren’t selling a product, they’re promoting a brand. And they do it by telling a story. For example, this 2013 Budweiser ad tells the story of a horse trainer who completes the animal’s training and reluctantly sends him away, only to be reunited later. The warm feeling you get from the ad transfers to the image viewers have of the company.

Branding is critical, especially to a new business. It’s what differentiates your business from the competition. So when you’re promoting your brand, save those product ads for later and think about telling a story instead. For example, an auto repair shop might tell the story of a family who comes in for a checkup before leaving for vacation. They leave with a smile on their face knowing they can travel safely. The good feeling that story creates transfers to people’s image of the auto shop.

Humor gets attention.

Laughter gets people to sit up and take notice. Take this 2021 Rocket Mortgage ad for example. The unexpected twist was memorable and social media lit up with chatter about.  Just make sure the humor gets the kind of attention you want. Humor can backfire if not used appropriately. This 2008 SalesGenie ad offended people with their use of an Asian stereotype. The ad was ultimately pulled but after many saw it live during the game.

On a reduced scale, small businesses can use humor to liven up their marketing pieces. Evan Horowitz Advising suggests several ways to add an entertainment value to your promotions. For example, a pet store could link to YouTube videos featuring dogs doing tricks. They could expand that on their social media channels by asking followers to post videos of their own dogs pulling funny stunts.

Show, don’t tell.

How do you tell prospective customers what your product or service can do for them?  Some businesses provide a bulleted list of features. Others show a side-by-side comparison of how they stack up against the competition. Both can be effective but they don’t always connect with people.

This 2018 Amazon Alexa ad takes a different approach. Instead of telling, the ad shows how people rely on their product and what can happen when it’s not available. That creates a deeper connection with how the product enriches their lives.

Small businesses can do the same thing. For example, a bicycle repair shop could get customers to post photos or videos of their family enjoying a bike ride. They demonstrate the value of  a well-maintained bike that can take them on memorable adventures. The underlying message is the service your business provides makes that happen.

Small businesses may not have the budget for a Super Bowl ad but they can take away some valuable insights. See if there’s a place for these insights in your marketing efforts.