While the Super Bowl is often full of nonsensical, decidedly nontraditional advertising, the most effective ads are created with a shrewd marketing strategy in mind.  These ads follow strategies that can be advantageous to companies of any size or budget.  Businessweek.com’s Steve McKee offers these insightful rules to Super Bowl marketing that could be equally applicable your firm’s marketing efforts. 

The first, perhaps most important rule is putting strategy first.  Creativity is important and can get people talking about an advertisement but creativity without strategy can just leave viewers confused.  Take for example epidemic.com and lifeminders.com.  These startups aired Super Bowl commercials in 2000 that may have been creative but did not make much of an effort to describe what kinds of services these companies provided.  Both companies are now long gone.  The second rule is to be relevant.  The most effective advertising efforts are often based on a topical subject.  For instance, FedEx’s 2003 ad offered a humorous take on Castaway, a recent blockbuster hit at the time.  The best advertising campaigns keep it simple.  Google’s “Parisian Love” commercial offered a simple display of what the search engine could offer, taking viewers on a tour of France through Google searches related to the country.  An effective marketing rule to keep in mind is show, don’t tell.  People remember images much more vividly than they remember words, so it’s more effective to give a visual demonstration of what your company can offer rather than have a long verbal description delivered by a talking head.  To see a good marketing idea carried out successfully, it’s essential to invest in production values.  Great ideas can be ruined in the production process due to poor directing, acting, or editing jobs.  Volkswagen’s celebrated “Imperial March” ad, in which a child dressed as Darth Vader is thrilled by the idea that he started his parents’ car by using “the force,” owes much of its success to quality casting, editing, and scoring jobs.

Although your business might not have a Super Bowl-status budget, the rules of successful Super Bowl marketing are principles that are universal to marketing campaigns of any budget.  What small-scale marketing directors should take out of McKee’s rulebook is that effective Super Bowl ads use their budgets to keep things understandable, relevant, and simple.

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