The Super Bowl was filled with brands just missing the opportunity to connect their stories to their brands. Whether you’re talking about Toyota, Dove, Nationwide (to an extent) or…the Seahawks, most failed to capitalize on their brand promises.
Super Bowl ads, as we’ve said time and time again, are basically a waste of money for companies. They are costly and are judged by their entertainment value rather than for whether they truly worked.
Having said that, many of the advertisers this year decided to tell emotional stories rather than out-loud funny ones and many had some real power. The problem was that, like those entertainment-based ads, there was no emotional connection to the brand itself.
Toyota had a wonderful montage of Amy Purdy dancing, running, modeling, biking despite two prosthetic legs while Muhammad Ali’s “How Great I Am” speech served as the voiceover. It was powerful stuff. But this was to sell a Camry? Just saying “The Bold New Camry” wasn’t enough. Why the Camry is bold was simply not there. Does anybody see the Camry as bold?
Dove had a nice ad centered on fathers and sons that played nicely but that transition to Dove for Men logo and tagline was so abrupt it was laughable. It seemed like Dove developed the ad, was ready to ship it off to NBC and, suddenly, someone said, “Wait! We forgot to put our logo on it!” So one was slapped on.
There were those ads that worked on a minor level in connecting to the brand. McDonald’s had a spot that said random customers would be able to pay in “love” (such as calling your mother or hugging your spouse) that connected with its “I’m lovin’ it” brand. Budweiser trotted out its most effective equity marker in the Clydesdales, although the ad itself was really just entertainment. But it definitely fit into the Bud brand.
Then there was the controversial Nationwide ad that showed a young boy going through the usual tribulations of childhood, then lamenting that he’ll never get married or enjoy an adult life. Why? Because he’s dead.
It was a shocking ad, unforgettable and drove home the point: Prevent accidents. And an insurance company like Nationwide, which promises to be “on your side,” does have permission to talk to us about preventable practices.
But Nationwide got itself into a bit of a trap here because nothing it’s ever done in the past ever suggested it was that edgy. Tonally, it was nothing like a Nationwide ad which are usually all Peyton Manning humming its jingle. To have emotional permission, Nationwide needed a rebrand, something that said it was on your side for things greater than price and service and a jingle.
The ad sparked outrage across social media, and I think Nationwide missed the opportunity for it to grow market share. Was that the highest emotional intensity in deciding on insurance? (Tapping into that is what steals market share.)
In an industry that trots out Flo and Ickey Woods to little effect, this was something different. In a way, we have become so conditioned to how insurance ads should work that Nationwide’s attempt was a bit tonally deaf. But there’s a part of me that applauds it.
And now we come to the Seahawks. I admit this is a stretch, but with an evening of brands failing to make the connection to their emotional stories, the Seahawks had a fitting end.
Seattle has won with defense and a running game powered by Marshawn Lynch. With the ball on the one-yard line (maybe even the half-yard line), a timeout and the best power back in football in the backfield, the Seahawks…threw a slant.
We all saw it. New England’s Malcolm Butler jumped the route, intercepted the ball and the game was over.
Maybe if head coach Pete Carroll (or, more likely, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell) had remembered the Seahawks brand, we might be celebrating a different victor today.