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Brands: Going Back to Basics

The 2017 Super Bowl of advertising — when 66 brands ponied up outlandish amounts of cash for the chance to make creative history while connecting with millions of fans all over the world — has come and gone. Like all historic moments, we should pause and learn from these efforts to take brands to the next level.

This post is not about the cost breakdown of the ads (which you can find here) or the best of winners and losers recap (which you can find here). Instead, let’s dig into the data, creative content and strategy to uncover the playbook marketers and advertisers seem to be following this year: getting back to the basics of driving viewers to brand-owned channels.

Hashtag Trends

For those of us who specialize in lead generation and buyer journeys,  cue the touchdown dance memes here because marketers just drove it into the end zone! A report has shown a 15% decrease in the number of hashtags used in commercials. Could this mean that the hashtag is over? Out of 66 Super Bowl ads, only 30 of them included a hashtag- while 41% of them included a URL. Twitter handles were only shown in 5 commercials and Facebook only in 4. Is the hashtag apocalypse upon us?

The statistics come from Marketing Land’s sixth annual Hashtag Bowl that counts hashtags, social media mentions and URLs in ads shown during Super Bowl, reports Danny Sullivan for Marketing Land.

Super Bowl XLVIII, which was played in 2014, broke the record for the most hashtags used in ads at 57 percent. Both 2013 and 2015 had 50 percent, while in 2012, only 12 percent of ads included a hashtag.

Based on this year’s total of 66 ads, only 20 of them included a hashtag, which is 15 percent less than last year (including Skittles #TasteTheRainbow, Avocados from Mexico #AvoSecrets and Febreze #BathroomBreak), while URLs were shown in 27 or 41 percent of ads overall.

One ad that replaced the hashtag with a URL was wildly successful in bringing more people to their site: The 84 Lumber ad that aired during the Super Bowl crashed the firm’s website after six million people tried to watch.

Meanwhile, T-Mobile was the only company that decided to cover both sides of their offense and defense to include a hashtag, URL and all of its social media handles.

So, is the hashtag over?

Absolutely not. However, brands are finally developing strategies that align sales and marketing with creative and advertising to develop buyer journeys with data-driven insights.

These strategies are based on goal-driven metrics to close the loop on the wins you need for a two-point conversion at the top of the funnel, consisting of: 1) brand awareness with social conversations tracked with a hashtag, and 2) demand-driven traffic to brand-owned channels, i.e., ultimately a website.

In keeping with the football analogy, a field goal would be defined as filling out a form for more info, a trial subscription, downloading a piece of content, sharing content on a social channel or making a phone call or text for more info. A touchdown would be purchasing the product or service directly online or in-store after a defined period after the commercial.

On a personal note, I can attest that for the first time ever I went to Target this week for cleaning supplies, and I purchased Mr. Clean over Pine-Sol because I had their commercial in my head. Sexy Mr. Clean was amazing, funny and so well done. As a marketer, I thought, “Why not, it was a great commercial and they deserve it.” As a consumer, I just gave the brand the shot they asked for, a chance to convert a loyal customer of a competing brand. I’ll keep you posted if the woman who manages the cleaning of my home has a preference since she’s really the decision maker on all cleaning products in our house!

Final Thoughts

What the increase in URLs in Super Bowl commercials signals to me is that brands are really starting to understand they have to start with the end in mind and get back to basics. While a lot of this largely depends on what kind of product or service you offer, social media and all the tactics and executions that come with it are there to inform the strategy, supply insights on buyer personas, start conversations, grow relationships and provide entrances into education and sales funnels. Driving people to websites, content studios, or owned experiences gives brands the chance to start or continue the relationship.

As for hashtags being relevant, brands must decide what kind of data they need to make informed decisions. People that want to use hashtags will increase the spread of existing hashtags or make up their own. Brands that really knocked it out of the park will see it in their Conversation Research data in the brand terms and phrases they already know to be important.

But you don’t need a hashtag to tell you that. According to Jason Falls, the founder of the Conversation Research Institute and a strategic partner of mine, “There are millions of conversations happening online right now. And you can leverage that focus group of millions of people to make smarter decisions for your business. You just need the tools and smart strategists to decode the data and make it actionable.”

We are living in the most connected and noisy age that has ever existed. It can be assumed that huge amounts of your audiences are connected to mobile devices and use them while watching television. The marketer’s job is to have the brand goals in mind and then drive the customer journeys toward those goals.

This post was originally posted on LinkedIn Pulse. 

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Nicole Hudson is an engaging thought leader in marketing strategy development, branding, demand generation, content marketing, social media, marketing technology and lead generation. Her firm, Inbound Lead Solutions, focuses on sales and marketing alignment with B2B companies, franchising, professional services, keynote speakers, authors, and consultants. Hudson’s marketing strategies have been recognized by Franchise Media Group in two consecutive years with Star Awards for social media lead generation, and by a Dbusiness Magazine award in 2016 for Marketing Consulting. Her work has been featured in a LinkedIn case study on Franchising Search Engine Optimization and Lead Generation. She published a book collaboration with Bulldog Reporter (Infocom), The Advanced LinkedIn PR Handbook. Hudson has developed social media strategies for two national television appearances, Be the Boss and Undercover Boss. Nicole is a member of the International Franchise Association and sits on its Marketing & Technology Committee; is a board member and marketing chair for Community Home Supports, a Detroit non-profit; and is a regular speaker, content contributor, and trainer on digital marketing topics.

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