The Anti-Super Bowl Ad: How to Be a World-Champion Marketer Every Day of the Year


So you don’t have the budget for a major celebrity endorsement from the likes of Pierce Brosnan or Brett Favre or even Kim Kardashian. And you don’t have the creative firepower to produce the heart-tugging epic of an adventurous puppy and his friends the Clydesdales. Lucky you.

Why? Because you have something far greater at your disposal.

Super Bowl ads and super-sized budgets: Who needs ‘em?

The Super Bowl might be the most-talked about moment in marketing every year. But that’s just it: after a week of speculation leading up to the big game and a couple of days of chatter after, all of those big-budget blockbusters quickly fade away into yesterday’s news.

Ultimately, Super Bowl ads fail the test of good modern marketing.

Think about the one quality almost all Super Bowl ads have in common: They may be funny. They may be sexy. They may be clever. They may be controversial. But at the end of the day, they are all designed to entertain. The Super Bowl – and everything surrounding it – is about over-the-top, in-your-face, entertainment. And therefore, the commercials that air in between plays in the NFL’s ultimate game and the pyrotechnics-infused half-time show have a lot to compete with to win our attention. Therefore, their only hope is to grab us and keep us entertained for 30 seconds.

While surely many of these spots will succeed in making us laugh or awww or even roll our eyes, that’s where their impact ends. They are too far removed from the products they are meant to promote to make any real connection with the audience. They don’t tell us anything meaningful about the brand. They don’t make a promise that we can evaluate to gauge the company’s merits against its competitors’. They don’t provide any content of substance to solidify our trust in the name behind the hoopla. Therefore, ultimately, they fail the test of good modern marketing.

The anti-Super Bowl advertiser’s playbook

For those of us mere mortals who are tasked with growing a brand without the coins to drop $4.5 million for the privilege of being adjacent to a mega moment in pop culture for 30 seconds, there’s no need to bemoan our lack of deep pockets. Why? Because we have a much more powerful set of weaponry in our arsenal.

In today's marketplace, the only valid currency is trust.

In today’s marketplace, which is one founded by, built by and existing for the people, trust is the only valid currency. And trust isn’t built through entertainment. Trust is built brick by brick, day by day, by companies that work hard, communicate honestly, deliver reliably and provide value beyond expectation.

Here are the seven commandments of trust-building that you must practice 365 days a year to conquer your market:

1. Have a purpose.

Your products are not your purpose. No matter what you sell, you have a greater reason for being than completing transactions and making the cash register ring.

Your company exists because you provide a product or service that meets a need or solves a problem. Focus on what it is about your offering that makes your customers’ lives easier, better or more fulfilled. Center everything you are, everything you do and everything you say around serving that purpose.

2. Build a relatable personality.

Stop trying to be a capital-B Brand. The capital-B Brands of the world are the Nikes, the Coca-Colas, the McDonald’s and the Apples of the world: instantly recognizable with a mere glance at their logo – or even their signature colors.

Your brand is more than your icon. Your brand is shaped by the values that define every interaction you have with your customers. Your brand is a mosaic of your people, and as such, it should be inherently human with genuine human qualities.

Don’t approach your customers as a Brand. Approach them from the perspective of someone who understands their needs and wants to solve their problems and make their life easier.

3. Communicate value.

Less than half of consumers trust paid advertising (down about 25% since 2009, according to Nielsen), which just goes to prove that useless, empty marketing content is useless, no matter how comedically, sexily or outrageously it’s dressed.

Today’s consumers are starved for meaning, transparency and utility. So when you communicate with them, forget the flash and focus on the substance. Create content that stands the test of time and provides genuine value, not just a lot of noise.

4. Be present – on every screen, not just the big one.

Wherever it is that your customers live, that’s where you should be. If they’re on Facebook, be on Facebook. If they’re on Twitter, start tweeting.

Listen. Contribute to the conversation – and not just when it serves your needs. Be helpful.

Above all else, be real. Don’t approach the conversation as a self-motivated, faceless corporate salesperson. Come to serve the community and its goals. Be yourself – a person with a budget, family, needs, problems and passions just like everyone else.

Read more: Mastering Tribe Marketing

5. Invest in your existing customers as much as you invest in acquiring new ones.

Never underestimate the value of loyalty. It costs much less to keep a customer than to win over a new one. And if you’re really good, you can turn your customers into fans that will serve as evangelists for your brand and do your marketing for you.

6. Make waves.

Commit to your story. Own your point of view. Don’t be afraid to risk alienating a few people in exchange for being loved by your core customers.

Doing things as they’ve always been done is comfortable and safe. You’re not going to offend anyone. But you’re not going to inspire anyone, either. Everyone who likes you one day can be gone the next. But people who love you stand by you.

In every industry and in every market, there is the opportunity to be revolutionary. Give the tribe of people who share a passion for what you do something meaningful to rally around. Show them that you understand them and you care about meeting their needs.

Draw a line in the sand. Demonstrate what you stand for. Be equally proud of what you are and what you are not.

Be bold. Be unapologetic. Be arrogant if that’s what it takes.

It shows passion. It shows conviction. It’s better than being imminently forgettable.

Let go of the safety net of liking. Make waves of love and hate. You’ll make the choice for your customers an easy one every time.

Read more: Death by Liking

7. Deliver.

To borrow the words of Steve Jobs, “Real artists ship.” At the end of the day, action is your best advertising. Every interaction you have with your customers is a chance to move the chains – either to advance toward the goal line of winning their trust or to lose yardage in the fight.

Action is your best advertising.

Don’t go over the top with your advertising. Do go above and beyond in delivering on your promises – every single time without fail.

It all comes down to this: You may never be a Super Bowl advertiser. But you can most certainly become a world-champion trust-builder. And that’s a title that pays dividends 365 days a year.

Read more: What Are You Doing to Move the Chains?