What the Superbowl Taught Me About Co-opting Cool…

Kris Dunn Culture, Kris Dunn

Superbowl ads. Lots of hype, little payoff. My friend Kelly Dingee did a post yesterday talking about the difference between the recent Ladders ads and the famous “when I grow up” Monster ads from a few years back. An interesting comparison to say the least.

What did I learn about marketing and branding from this year’s Superbowl ads? If I had to sum it up in one line, here’s what I would go with:

“It’s easy to be memorable for a day, but hard to be memorable in a decade”.

Most of the Superbowl ads from this year went for the media equivalent of a big lunchroom burp in grade school. They sold sexuality or vulgarity, with each ad trying to figure out a way to stand out from the last. They all got giggles, but how many of you can list ten ads that went for the same “lowest common demonitator” angle?  You can’t, but there were a lot more than ten of those…

Case in point and a case in contrast: Two ads from Eminem. The first ad from Lipton used the likeness and voice of Slim Shady and leaned on the fact that he’s often vulgar. You might remember it now. You won’t remember it in a year. Here’s the ad:

This just in. Eminem curses. Funny at the moment. But memorable? Hardly.

But wait, I’m not hating on Eminem. The most memorable spot from the Superbowl, in my eyes, also starred the Detroit star. It was the Chrysler spot that appears below. Watch this one after watching the Lipton spot:

Dramatic voiceover. Haunting imagery. A story that swells pride in the American way, even if you’re not from Detroit. Music coming in at the end that supports the broader theme – the bootstrap underdog kid getting ready to break out.

It made me want to buy an American car which, after everything Detroit’s been through, is not an easy emotion to invoke.

The moral to the ad story? Both companies had access to the coolness that is Eminem. One company went for the fart joke (so to speak), the easy thing that dozens of its competitors are trying to do. You’ll forget it by the end of the year.

The other company paid the same spokesperson similar money. But instead of co-opting cool at the lowest common denominator level, they went for something more complex. They wanted to invoke the emotion of pride. The American work ethic. They weaved the story and imagery together perfectly, and they included a white rapper staight outta the trailer in a way that made perfect sense, so a pop culture starved America could connect.

Some of you will say that’s impossible to do if you’re selling iced tea. I say that’s a cop-out.

The lesson? Don’t downgrade your brand with the equivalent of fart jokes. They’re forgetable. Go for the big prize, be memorable to someone in 10 years.

Whatever you do today, be the Emenim Chrysler ad. Be the Apple 1984 ad. Be the Monster “when I grow up” ad.

Don’t dance on the pole with your brand.