Many of those who watch the Super Bowl look forward to the Super Bowl commercials as much as they do the game. They expect to see big brands, stars, and creative advertising. Following the game, there is as much discussion of the strategy behind the commercials as there is of the strategies employed by the teams.
Analyzing these commercials provides some interesting insights for marketers on what commercials need to be most effective post-Super Bowl. Here are some things that can be gleaned from this year’s winners.
Viewers love nostalgic ads
Many of this year’s top Super Bowl commercials turned to nostalgia to connect with viewers, including the Pop Corners commercial — highlighted in reports from CNN, NPR, and CBS — which featured the fictional characters Walter White and Jesse Pinkman from the AMC series “Breaking Bad.” The commercial plays like a scene from the critically acclaimed show, except for replacing the duo’s typical product (crystal meth) with Pop Corners popped-corn snacks.
By taking viewers back to Walter White’s famous trailer, Pop Corners tapped into the longing for the past that nostalgia represents. Research shows that nostalgia is one way that we cope with distress. For those who are having a hard time handling the stress of the present, nostalgia is a way to escape to the peace of the past.
“Breaking Bad” ended in 2013, before the Covid-19 pandemic changed everything. It is easy to imagine that the reappearance of its signature characters during the Super Bowl allowed people to reconnect with a less stressful season of their lives. And Pop Corners benefits from the connection.
T-Mobile also leveraged nostalgia, taking viewers back to 1978 by casting John Travolta to sing about their service in the style of Danny Zuko. Michelob Ultra went back almost as far with its Caddyshack remix commercial.
Super Bowl Commercials: Viewers love sentimental ads
The Farmer’s Dog commercial, which was given a top spot in many of the post-Super Bowl discussions, showed how powerful a sentimental story can be. The ad follows a girl and her dog, named Bear, as they grow up together. The tagline, “nothing matters more than more years together,” suggests to viewers that feeding your pet The Farmer’s Dog pet food will keep them in your life longer. After watching Bear’s story, which even shows him standing with the girl during her wedding, the tagline rings true.
Amazon’s commercial took a similar approach, leveraging sentimentality to tell the story of a family and their dog. The dog enjoys having the family at home all day during the pandemic, only to be miserable and mischievous when they head back to their schools and their jobs. The solution, the family decides, is to bring home a new dog to keep the old one company. Amazon provides the new pet carrier, becoming the hero brand that serves both man’s best friend and the family that loves him.
In both of these commercials, brands look to emotion, rather than star power, to make an impact. The message to marketers is that brands do not need John Travolta or Serena Williams — who starred in the Michelob Ultra commercial — if they tell a good story.
Viewers love solutions
A final lesson that can be learned from this year’s ads is that brands that have an impressive product should show what it does. The commercial for the Google Pixel 7, in addition to leveraging some star power, showed the power the phone has to make your photos everything you want them to be.
The danger of turning to high emotion or superstar talent is that they can overshadow the product. The Super Bowl ad fielded by Rémy Martin, which is a French cognac, has been criticized for that. Many of this year’s top commercials, including the Pop Corners ad, the Rakuten Clueless remix ad, and the Kia ad highlighting “Binky Dad” — which was rated as this year’s top car commercial — all made sure that the brand was one of the stars, as well as showing how the product would serve them.
— Rudy Mawer is a serial investor and CEO to multiple brands and manages an in-office staff of more than 70 team members. Currently, he runs multiple businesses, including a Marketing Capital group with Kevin Harrington, the Original Shark from the TV show “Shark Tank,” where he helped over 50,000 small businesses around the world.
By Rudy Mawer, CEO — Mawer Capital