The buzz is that Budweiser won the popular opinion prize of Best Super Bowl Ad 2015. I hate to be a contrarian, but how did McDonald’s fly under everyone’s radar? They may not have had the BEST ad, but they surely must have had one of the most effective ones. Dear marketers, the goal and the role of advertising is to brand build and/or to create a (sometimes immediate) call to action. Budweiser did neither. McDonalds did both.
Don’t get me wrong, I found Budweiser’s ad to be incredibly cute and superior to last year’s “Puppy Love.” I’d bet my life that in the vacuum of a copy test, this year’s Budweiser ad, “Lost Dog” would, or did, score highly in terms of Likeability, Breakthrough and Emotional Engagement. That said, Budweiser’s cute and cuddly communication, for the most part, contradicts the majority of the beer’s other messages and sponsorships.
This kind of intermittent — if once a year qualifies as intermittent — messaging likely does the opposite of what Budweiser intends, by causing implicit confusion from a branding standpoint. Our research on Brand Stereotypes® shows that shifting deeply-held, brand associations takes (1) a lot of time, (2) repetition and (3) consistent reinforcement at less-conscious levels. Sure, Budweiser IS going to get a TON of views and buzz around their brand, which was one goal, but deep down, this ad will likely have no LONG TERM effects on their brand image.
Consider the target customer that consumes 80% or more of Budweiser’s product each year. I suspect this ad does not align closely with their non-conscious brand perceptions, despite some of its masculine undertones. And misalignment is a missed opportunity! Last year’s “hit ad” made people ‘oooh’ and ‘awww,’ but did it make more people buy Budweiser for their next party or this year before the Super Bowl? If not, then exactly how effective was it? Even if it did make you cry.
Contrast that to the McDonald’s ad, which aired about 10 minutes later. The ad ran and my co-watchers’ responses included, “That is such a sweet ad,” or “That is such a cute idea!” and most importantly, “We are definitely getting McDonald’s on our way home.”
McDonald’s stands out as a campaign that leverages its Brand Stereotype® in a truly elegant and creative way; I consider it one of the best ads of the game. For those that did not watch, this ad featured a new McDonald’s promotion which randomly selects customers to “Pay with Lovin’.” In other words, they can buy their food by expressing love to their family members with words and affection. If they “give lovin’,” they “get lovin’.” The ad was indisputably emotive, but critics did not find it exciting or able to stand out among all of the other “crazy” Super Bowl ads.
Hear me out – rather than a one-off, emotional execution, McDonald’s repurposed the tagline it had been using every day for the past however many years to both persuade viewers to visit a McDonald’s, and to strengthen its association with Love: love for others, love for customers, and love for McDonald’s. McDonald’s expanded the way we see the chain, while still being authentic and in total alignment with everything we know to be McDonald’s. Their ad exemplifies what it means to appreciate your Brand Stereotype®, know your target audience, understand what you have permission to discuss, and then leverage that information to reinforce or build positive brand perceptions.
More meaningfully, I later learned that half of my friends did, in fact, go to McDonald’s for a late night snack or dessert!
McDonald’s did not have the sexiest or most exciting ad of Super Bowl Sunday. I could spend another 4 paragraphs talking about the funny ones, or the raunchy “attention grabbing” ones, or the Always™ “Girl Empowerment” ad that was fantastic, but whose time slot was too late in the game. I could, but I won’t. I’ll jump straight to impact, which is the whole point: If the goal of these unbelievably expensive 30-60 second spots is to get viewers’ attention and reinforce desired associations to achieve greater brand interaction in the near-or-distant future, then McDonald’s un-bun-iably wins.