For many brands, Super Bowl XLIX was all about uplifting ads. Gone are the days of scantily clad women and slapstick humor: the most memorable commercials of the night embraced the opportunity to tell emotionally-charged stories that put the spotlight on customers.
Here are 3 trends that won Super Bowl 2015 and what they mean for marketing.
In the last few years, the way brands have marketed to men has become more nuanced and more emotional. The trend reached a new peak with this year’s Super Bowl.
Dads, in particular, got a lot of love this year. In a sentimental spot, Dove Men+Care paid tributes to fathers, proclaiming, “Care makes a man stronger.”
Nissan did something similar in With Dad, a 90-second spot that highlighted the struggle of a professional race-car driver to be close with his son.
- Customer Lovin’
Whether showing their affection for their patrons or telling customers that they matter, there was plenty of love this year.
In Pay with Lovin’, McDonald’s customers were given the option to pay for their meals not with cash but by expressing their fondness for their friends and family. The feel-good advert follows the company’s Archenemies campaign, which also draws inspiration from love.
Nationwide Insurance showed two ads. The one that people were more receptive to featured comedic actress Mindy Kaling. The lighthearted spot shows Kaling being passed over while hailing a taxi. "After years of being treated like she was invisible, it occurred to Mindy Kaling she might actually be invisible," the narrator says. Kaling then does the things you normally wouldn't do if people can see you: eating ice cream right from the jar while in a grocery store, sunbathing nude, and attempting to kiss Matt Damon. The punchline: Nationwide tells customers that they are not invisible, and the insurance company “sees you.”
Camaraderie was another big theme. For example, Super Bowl ad veteran Coca-Cola chose to tackle cyber bullying with its #MakeItHappy spot. Supported by its microsite, the campaign urges people to make the Internet a happier place by fostering friendships and positivity online instead of spreading hatred.
Drawing from the viral success of its 2014 campaign, Budweiser’s #BestBuds tells the story of a lost puppy finding his way home to be with its owner.
Some Super Bowl losers
Not all emotional ads resonated with viewers. Unlike its Invisible ad, Nationwide Insurance’s grim Boy Can’t Grow spot was met with mixed reviews. "I'll never learn to ride a bike or get cooties," a little boy says in the ad. "I'll never learn to fly or travel the world with my best friend."
Later, the boy reveals, “I couldn't grow up because I died from an accident.”
People complained that the ad’s somber tone dampened the event’s upbeat vibe. Viewer reaction was so strong that the company had to issue a statement defending the ad.
“We knew the ad would spur a variety of reactions,” claims the insurance company. “While some did not care for the ad, we hope it served to begin a dialogue to make safe happen for children everywhere.”
Even humor wasn’t a safe bet. GoDaddy decided not to air its Journey Home ad, a parody of Budweiser’s 2014 Lost Puppy spot, after drawing wide criticism from customers, animal activists and the general public.
These missteps are reminders that ad and message testing need to be part of an advertiser’s toolkit. When your $4.5-million-per-30-second commercial is about to shown to more than 100 million people, it’s critical that the right message is communicated.
Overall, this year’s Super Bowl shows that more companies are trying to connect with customers in a more meaningful way. More brands are waking up to the fact that showing customers the love and respect they demand and deserve is good for business. By talking about happiness and love, companies want customers to know that their brands are more than just about what they sell. Companies are realizing that empowered customers want more than just great products or services; customers today support brands whose values align with theirs.
Of course, telling customers you love them and creating tear-jerking ads isn’t enough. True customer love comes from an understanding of your customers—it comes from treating them as true partners in your company.