Lessons from Super Bowl ads

The annual ritual of the U­­S National Football League’s championship, the Super Bowl, is a few weeks away. It’s a special year as it is the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl and may break even its own record for the number of worldwide viewers. It also has become legendary for the commercial breaks on American pay television, for the cost of the television ads, the creativity of the ads, and even the selection and social media surrounding the ads.

As source material for facilitating conversations with marketing students about culture and communication, the Super Bowl ads are rich indeed. Each of the ones that airs provides opportunities to discuss the American consumer culture, as well as what is universal to communicating the values of a brand. For instance, I am absolutely smitten with the Budweiser beer commercials that have usually been launched around the annual American football championship game featuring the brand’s famous Clydesdale horses. There are appealing characters (the puppy and horse, and the horse’s “team” – pardon the pun), a compelling plot, and a resolution, which is not surprising, it is happy.  The entire series of these television ads have been the subject of commentary from business-to-business bloggers (countless more than me) to reputable reporters for the great newspapers of America; the commercials will be subject of mainstream media news reports and once posted on YouTube, they garner tens of thousands of comments.

As a marketing professor this series and many of the others that will air for millions of dollars during the Super Bowl, including the once only Apple’s showing of the “Macintosh, 1984” TV ad that introduced the Mac during the 1984 Super Bowl, are useful in demonstrating how great communication of brand values seeks to touch both people’s minds and hearts; the best ads reflect the highest aspirational attributes of the brand, and therefore, those of potential customers.  When we serve guests, we have the opportunity to reach the hearts and the minds of our guests during every interaction. The analysis of these messages reminds me of Maya Angelou’s famous quote:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. This really is the essence of the guest experience.”

I’ll probably cry when I watch the next set of Super Bowl commercials and I’ll also look forward to analyzing these later for their educational application. So if you are one of the many whose favorite team is not playing, as we are, there will be plenty of commercials to make you feel. If you are not an American football fan, check out the game’s television ads later.