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3 Big Brand Storytelling Takeaways from the Big Game

February 11, 2017 Bradford Group Administrator

Super Bowl LI had its share of buzzworthy moments on Sunday night. From the Patriots’ historic comeback in the second half to Lady Gaga’s drone show and mic drop, the entertainment level was high and the viewership was commendable.

It’s not just the football and halftime show that keep fans coming back year after year, the commercials have developed quite the following of their own. There are the ones that make you laugh, make you cry and make you ask, “What just happened?!” This year was no exception.

While my personal favorite featured one of my guilty pleasure pop songs from high school, something else stood out to me about this year’s collection. TV ads are no longer about just selling a product. The best commercials are telling a story that resonates with the audience.

Here are three brands that used the power of storytelling to score a touchdown with their Super Bowl ads – and how you can do the same for your business.

1. Make the audience feel something.
The best way to get through to your audience is to elicit an emotion through your message. Think of the stories you tell your friends or the links you share on social media. What motivates you to pass along that message? It likely made you laugh out loud or quickly wipe away the tears before anyone noticed. Whatever the reason, you felt moved to share it with the world.

This year, Hyundai not only made a commercial that was the first ever filmed during the broadcast, but it also did not include a single Hyundai vehicle. Instead the carmaker executed “Operation Better” by surprising three deployed soldiers with the chance to watch the Super Bowl live, virtually, with their families. They tied it into their message “Better Drives Us,” and left all of us in the audience weeping into our chips and salsa.

2. Tell your story in a way that’s never been done before.
Brands spend months shooting and packaging the 30-second spot they secured (and spent millions on) for the Super Bowl. Some even get started immediately after the final play the year before. Snickers may have had months to prepare for this year’s commercial but they only had one shot to get it right. Their spot with Star Wars star Adam Driver was done live during the broadcast.

Yes they brought in humor and celebrities as they are known to do, but their creativity didn’t end there. They told their story in a way no brand has in the 51-year history of the Super Bowl – sans editing. And that’s what has the media talking. That, and the clever way they kept their message going after the game.

Even if you don’t have something brand new to say, find a brand new way of saying it.

3. The rule of three still rings true.
If you are a writer or have ever taken a course in marketing and advertising, you are familiar with the “rule of three.” In short, if you repeat a message three times it will have a more lasting effect than any other number of repetitions. Tide pulled this off masterfully by running the same message three different times throughout the game.

The first message was a subtle one. We had no idea we were about to be marketed to, we just thought sports announcer Terry Bradshaw spilled sauce on his shirt. It wasn’t until later when Tide aired their second, more obvious, commercial did we realize we’d been fooled. And before you could stop laughing at your gullible self, they aired one more commercial to wrap up the story. They hit us three times, and it stuck.

Tell a story that moves your audience in new ways and your message could be a game changer.

Which brands do you think told the best story at this year’s Super Bowl?

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