Super Bowl Stories Build Super Brands

  |  February 7, 2011   |  Comments

A Super Bowl ad provides an impressive platform from which to create and build your brand. Stories are an integral component of this process.

Super Bowl broadcasters and advertisers love stories. The broadcasters love Cinderella teams and bench players who come through at a critical moment to help their team win the big game. Marketers and advertisers spend big bucks on Super Bowl ads due to their high visibility and massive reach. And the most effective of these ads reach out and grabs viewers' attention by building a story around their brand. Competing with viewing parties, food, drink, and the call of nature, these high-priced media buys try to win our hearts and our pocketbooks in 30 seconds or less.

Over its 45-year history, the Super Bowl has acted as a wonderful branding platform. Apple cemented the brand image of the new Macintosh computer with its groundbreaking 1984 Super Bowl ad.

But there have been many other Super Bowl ads that created lasting impressions, from Coke's touching "Mean Joe Green" commercial in 1979 to last year's amusing Snickers ad featuring Betty White.

The one thing these memorable advertisements had in common was that they all used a story to create viewer involvement and convey a strong brand image. For Apple, the image was as a brave innovator, for Coke, it was as a brand with an emotional connection, and for Snickers, it was as an enabler of energetic fun.



5 Ways to Build Brands With Stories

Stories are at the core of strong branding because they help break through message overload and grab our attention. In large part this is attributable to the story-telling factors that we've listened to since we were children. Here are five story-related elements that are critical to brands.

  1. Create a personality. This is critical since people deal with people not products. Since stories focus on a central player, brands can use this character to engage with prospects and customers. The character can be someone like your audience or someone they aspire to be.
  2. Associate feelings with a product or service. By themselves, products don't inspire emotional attachments; stories play a critical role for brands by attaching sentiments to products. As a result, stories connect brand attributes across the breadth of senses such as visual and sound with products.
  3. Build consistency. Since the basic elements of a story remain constant, even though the setting may vary, this helps brands build a sense of reliability that translates to trustworthiness over time. Remember, this applies to a wide range of attributes such as color, visual cues, and sound.
  4. Are memorable. Stories aid brands by giving them core attributes that are easy for the target audience to remember. As a result, your brand can stand out due to its story.
  5. Can easily be shared. Stories make brands more talk-worthy. Is your ad and its story worth telling someone about? If not, what can you do to change this?

5 Ways to Keep Your Brand's Story Alive

To build your brand and its story once you've made the investment in a Super Bowl ad, here are five options to consider. To be most effective, it's useful to use multiple platforms to reinforce your brand message.

  1. Traditional media. Includes other major networks, cable, newspapers, and magazines. Selectively place your Super Bowl ad, especially with other television buys, to help amortize the creation investment. Further, these broad-based media vehicles provide additional impressions that consumers need for the ad to make an impact.
  2. Online marketing support. Encompasses your website or targeted microsite, related paid search advertising, and e-mail marketing. It's easy to overlook the need to support your Super Bowl ad with targeted outposts online.
  3. Social media. Incorporates a wide variety of options depending on the product, brand, and/or company such as Facebook, Twitter, videos, blogs, photographs, message boards, ratings, and reviews. As a marketing platform, social media is a natural for stories. (For more information, here's how to use stories in your social media.) Use one or more of these platforms to support and extend your Super Bowl campaign. If you're planning to use video related to your campaign, think this through before shooting your commercial to produce consistent outtakes less expensively.
  4. Mobile. Given how hot mobile is and this market's continued U.S. expansion, at a minimum, consider creating a related mobile website for your Super Bowl ad. Since Super Bowl advertisers tend to be CPG firms, consider how consumers check your product while they're shopping such as mobile coupons. (For background, here's more mobile data.)
  5. In-store promotions. In the traditional sense, this means the merchandising and positioning done in supermarkets, drugstores, and mass retailers such as displays, in-store advertising, and coupons. (Of course, there're also mobile versions.)

6 Story-Related Brand Metrics

As with any advertising strategy, it's critical to measure your results. One of the advantages of the major media spend involved is that Super Bowl ads attract a lot of interest in terms of post-game viewing online and in the media. That said, you must determine your metrics as part of building your strategy and ensure that they track your progress. Here are six metrics to consider.

  1. Reach. The Super Bowl is the ultimate mass reach vehicle. Therefore, it's important to consider how well-targeted your ad is to address this diverse audience since there are more viewers due to the related game activities such as watching the ads and partying.
  2. Social media metrics including earned media. Your goal is to determine if the ad was buzz-worthy. Did you drive viewers to your social media sites to engage deeper? How much time did visitors spend engaged? Also, did they share information with their social graph through social sharing and news creating earned media impressions? On a related note, did you get media mentions?
  3. Online marketing metrics. Did your Super Bowl ad drive visitors, searches, e-mail registrations, or other metrics that are important to your brand and tie back to your marketing goals?
  4. Mobile. Did your ad get viewers to text to a short code, register for text messages, visit your mobile website, or other mobile-related action?
  5. Revenues. While branding often takes time to drive sales, it's important to track results in the form of a change in market share or a bump in sales following the ad's airing.
  6. Brand attributes. This includes a variety of factors such as brand favorability, brand perception, and purchase intent. In general, these elements can't be measured directly. (Here's a fuller list for tracking branding elements, especially as they relate to social media.)

A Super Bowl ad provides an impressive platform from which to create and build your brand. Stories are an integral component of this process. Stories can be useful for positioning your product since they enhance its presence and provide emotional attachment and consistency.

How do you feel about using stories to build brands? Please include your ideas and suggestions in the comment section below.

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen


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Heidi Cohen

Heidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies, an interactive marketing consultancy. She has over 20 years' experience helping clients increase profitability by developing innovative marketing programs to acquire and retain customers based on solid analytics. Clients include New York Times Digital,, CheapTickets, and the UJA. Additionally, Riverside Marketing Strategies has worked with numerous other online content/media companies and e-tailers.

Prior to starting Riverside Marketing Strategies, Heidi held a number of senior-level marketing positions at The Economist, the Bookspan/Doubleday Direct division of Bertelsmann, and Citibank.

Her blog,, was nominated as a finalist for Top Social Media Blog of 2012 by Social Media Examiner.

Heidi is also a popular speaker on current industry topics.

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