Why Budweiser’s “Lost Dog” Ad Was a Brand Flop After Super Bowl

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Right alongside the New England Patriots, Budweiser’s “Lost Dog” ad was considered a Super Bowl winner. But what did the ad do for the brand?

Not much, according to recent research by Sami Kaipa, chief operating officer at consumer engagement management platform GlimpzIt, and Adhil Patel, a market researcher from South Africa. Patel and Kaipa revisited the ad and analyzed it based on surveys, both traditional and visual, as well as social listening data. Though the ad was popular on social – 19 million YouTube views before the commercial even aired on TV and nearly 240,000 Twitter mentions by Monday morning – it ultimately didn’t result in any brand lift. There was a lack of relevance that consumers may not have even been aware of, according to Kaipa.

“It became crystal clear when we saw photos of respondent locations that a significant population felt completely detached from farm culture,” Kaipa says. Interestingly, while very few urban consumers voiced that sentiment, the crowd resonance analysis showed an overwhelming support for it, demonstrating the subconscious nature of advertising.

The visual dialogue methodology involved targeting consumers with a dialogue prompt, either a question or call-to-action. The responses, which were gathered with a purposefully-designed interface, were given to a panel of respondents who evaluated and commented on them. The findings were then analyzed through a combination of data scientists and machine learning.

The weather was another factor in Budweiser’s lack of relevance. Through visual prompting, many people revealed that the ad would have resonated more with them had it taken place during the summertime. One respondent, a 25-year-old from Pennsylvania, associates Budweiser with family picnics, while a 58-year-old Rhode Islander said, “Set the whole thing in the summer and you’ll make the audience crave an ice cold beer more.”

There’s also the massive disconnect between the ad and the product, says Allen Adamson, North American chairman of Landor Associates, a New York City-based brand consultancy.

“I can talk about the horse and the dog all day, and all that talk is not going to get me to say, ‘I’m drinking a Bud because it tastes better,” Adamson says.

With no beer in “Lost Dog,” save for the man taking a quick swig after getting his puppy back, the brand relies on “borrowed interest.” According to Adamson, that can lead to engagement for an advertiser whose Super Bowl goal is brand awareness, but not for a heavyweight like Budweiser.

“The Super Bowl isn’t a popularity contest; it’s about business,” he says. “If there’s not a tight connection between the story and the benefit you’re trying to get a hold of – not just, ‘Brought to you by Budweiser’ – all that noise [on social media] is just noise. It’s not going to impact your bottom line.”

Adamson adds that despite the ad’s high popularity on Twitter, it ultimately makes him think of David Ogilvy’s famous quote, “If it doesn’t sell, it’s not creative.”

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