Customer Experience Lessons from Television Advertising’s Biggest Day In America

First, notice the title of this blog! You will see that I didn’t mention the name by which people typically refer to the season-ending major sporting event where commercials play a central role. Therein is my first lesson:

Trademarks matter. Virtually every phrase used to describe that event has been trademarked and the equity created around it is policied aggressively by the trademark owners attorneys. Have you taken the time to carefully craft your trade dress, register your trademark, and protect your branded experience assets?

Lessons from the Commercials

Ok, on to this year commercials during that event which reportedly went for just over $5 million for a 30-second ad. Let’s look at some of the key customer experience lessons we can derive from some of the most effective and least effective ads developed by the world’s most esteemed advertising creatives:

Communicate when people want to listen. Given the divisiveness of our political and social environment, many brands had to think long and hard about making the financial investment needed to produce and slot ads during this year’s event. That said, there wasn’t a lack of companies putting up the money. Those investments occurred because customers and prospects wanted to listen and watch. Unlike the remainder of the year, when people record and skip through television commercials, there was an audience of approximately 100 million people who were eager and willing to give two minutes or so of attention during each commercial break so that brands could share their story and express their brand’s character. When and where are your customers open to listening to your message? Are your marketing efforts positioned to “catch people where they are” or are you messaging them when they are otherwise pre-occupied?

Be careful when you leverage non-commercial messaging for commercial gain. An automobile company advertising during the sporting event purportedly sought permission from Martin Luther King’s family to use Reverend King’s words in the context of a commercial about one of their brands – suffice it to say it was met with polarizing results. A similar example could be found in the halftime performance of Justin Timberlake. Fans of Prince took to social media decrying Justin Timberlake’s choice to use clips of Prince in an homage duet. During his lifetime Prince was a critic of similar “from the grave” duets and in a Guitar World article Prince said, “That’s the most demonic thing imaginable…that will never happen to me. To prevent that kind of thing from happening is another reason why I want artistic control.” In the spirit of the phrase “ just because you can doesn’t mean you should” … what are some associations you might want to steer away from as you message about your business offerings?

Playfully maintain a sense-of-humor. While the same caution about discretion and taste apply to this lesson (as they did in the lesson that immediately preceded this one), humor can powerfully put people at ease, communicate approachability, and drive the type of likeability sought by people who included in their dating ads words like, “I possess a great sense-of-humor.” One of the most popular ads (as evaluated by people like Ad Age who track such things) was Amazon’s lost voice. The ad juxtaposed many desirable elements: recognizable celebrities, timely relevance, and a brand’s willingness to poke a bit of fun at itself. Where does your playful and self-accepting humor present itself throughout your customer’s journey with you?

Positive surprise. Unlike any prior year’s event, the surprise was in short supply among the commercials aired during the game. Increasingly we saw ads presented in advance of the game to create early buzz. That said, Tide faired well with a running set of commercials that they hadn’t previewed before the event and in which they tried to lure the viewer into thinking they were seeing a typical advertisement for diamonds, shavers, etc. only to “surprise” the viewer with the spot actually being about Tide. Thus, ultimately the brand tried to cause the viewer to think every ad might be a Tide ad! How are you using elements of positive surprise, not only in your messaging but at high-value interactions with your customers?

Want to Learn from Them All?

There are so many lessons, one could extrapolate from all 52 commercials slotted in that major sporting or might I say major advertisement event! If you happened to miss any of those savory and in some cases unsavory moments or lessons you can dive in for more. Trust me the advertisers won’t mind if you catch them all here!

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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