Small Business Customer Acquisition Takeaways from Super Bowl LII Commercials

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Now that all the touchdowns have been reviewed (one day we’ll have definitive rules on what is and isn’t a catch) and prop bets have been settled (the Gatorade shower was yellow, and Pink went under on the National Anthem), let’s get down to the truly important takeaways from the big game—what your small business can learn from those all-important and much discussed Super Bowl commercials. Did you happen to have a cool $5 million stashed in the coffers to shell out for one of those ads? No? Good—then this article is for you and the 29 million other small businesses currently operating in the US that didn’t get any airtime during the festivities. And that’s okay, because there’s a lot a small business can learn from those glitzy, high priced ads about how to secure new customers.

Your small business doesn’t need a massive advertising budget, broadcast presence or even a dedicated marketing team to gain invaluable insight into what will and won’t resonate with prospective customers in today’s market from this year’s Super Bowl ads. In fact, sometimes it’s not even the actual content of the commercial itself that can provide the best strategy for effective customer acquisition.

Check out the below for three of the best commercials from this year’s Super Bowl in terms of their strategic value to small businesses looking to looking to grow their customer base:

Alexa teaches us to make sure the product performs (or doesn’t perform) as advertised

What can your small business learn from a 90 second spot (I don’t want to even begin to contemplate the price tag for 90 seconds…although I’m sure Jeff Bezos won’t be losing any sleep over it) featuring Gordon Ramsay, Cardi B and Anthony freaking Hopkins? On the surface, maybe not a lot. Your business likely doesn’t boast voice integration and can’t trot out the richest man alive for a cameo, but did you notice the word “Alexa” was mentioned 12 times in this commercial and not one of your Alexa-enabled devices were activated? That’s not an accident.

Amazon anticipated this issue and took action to ensure this would not happen by muting the commercial in a specific range of the audio spectrum that is outside the range of human hearing and prevents Alexa from activating. The takeaway here is to make sure that however you advertise, market or otherwise position your product to new customers, you’re careful you aren’t putting yourself in a position where your product or service doesn’t live up to its billing. For Amazon, that means that Alexa will be there for you whenever you need it—and won’t be bothering you when you don’t. For you, it might mean being careful about advertising your pool cleaning business as being full service if you don’t handle retiling and you’re targeting an area with older swimming pools. Or, if you operate an independent hardware store you might be careful not to advertise carrying the latest power drill unless you’re certain it will be delivered and in stock by the time the promotion begins. Whatever your product or service, be sure that you’re prepared for your marketing campaign to work and be sure you’re prepared to deliver as advertised.

PETA teaches us to consider a more cost-effective approach

In year’s past, PETA has had Super Bowl commercials banned for being too suggestive. This year, they toned things down with a minute-long advertisement based in a church, but you didn’t see their ad on Sunday during the big game. PETA developed a commercial advertisement, reached out to NBC, received a quote for $10 million to air during the Super Bowl, did a cost analysis, and politely declined. Instead, PETA released the ad early and online, capitalizing on the build up to Super Bowl commercial mania and attaching the ad to the Super Bowl without incurring the exorbitant cost for a live ad during the game.

Consider a similar tactic for your small business. Do you own a regional chain of dry cleaners? A local radio, TV or print spot could absolutely garner exposure for your business, but would that capital better be used elsewhere? What if, instead of paying for advertising, you went door to door to local office buildings and co-working spaces offering discounts (with some of the savings from that advertising campaign) and free cleanings for first timers? This way, you’d know you were getting in front of your target audience, you’d bring new customers in, and you’d have a chance to turn them into repeat patrons who might ultimately advocate for your services to colleagues and friends. Advertising—whether it’s broadcast, print or online—can be an incredibly effective tactic for reaching new customers, but for a small business it’s important to consider if an alternative might be able to approximate that impact for a fraction of the price. After all, when you’re small and growing, every dollar counts!

Jack in the Box gives us #JackvsMartha and reminds us to be multidimensional in our efforts to grab customer attention

Was this the funniest commercial run during the Super Bowl? No. Was it the best executed? Decidedly not. However, this commercial did have one thing going for it—and that’s all the stuff outside the commercial. Jack in the Box got started early on their #JackvsMartha campaign by releasing the hashtag and a teaser for the commercial well before the game. Then, both Martha Stewart and Jack in the Box faux-beefed leading up to the commercials launch. Articles in People, CNNMoney and other outlets followed and, before you knew it, this arguably mediocre TV commercial had attracted millions of eyeballs outside of the actual advertisement.

As a small business owner, there’s a strong chance you don’t have access to celebrity spokespeople or interest in free publicity from People but that doesn’t mean you can’t take your online ad campaign and build it out to attract more new customers. It’s no big revelation to point out that you should develop an online presence and tie social in with any advertising campaigns, but you might go a step further than sending out a simple tweet stating that your financial services business offers superior results. Instead, consider joining LinkedIn and Facebook groups relevant to your customer base, ensure the language you use when pitching a new client is consistent to what they have seen in your online advertising and keep careful customer records, so you can most effectively personalize any advertising campaign to that prospective client. In short, the more robust and multifaceted the marketing campaign, the better chance you’ll have for success.

There’s something profoundly satisfying about watching large, multinational corporations toss millions of dollars around for high profile advertising and then paying attention to what does, and doesn’t, work so your small business can benefit. There is such an intense spotlight on Super Bowl advertising and there’s so much competition for attention that any small business can benefit tremendously if they pay close attention to the impact and consumer feedback across advertisements. Let your competitors casually discuss how funny Cardi B was in the Alexa commercial this year while you look at how your business might use that campaign to attract net new customers moving forward in 2018. That’s how smart small businesses participate in the Super Bowl advertising season. Oh, and if you really feel like you missed out by not having an ad in the game, just tell people that 20 second TV blackout was going to be your Super Bowl spot!

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