If you watched The Super Bowl earlier this month with friends, you know there are two types of people in the world: those who shush you when you talk through the game, and those who shush you when you talk through the commercials.
It’s no surprise that the game itself, a close affair between two likeable teams looking to snap long championship droughts, was able to hold the attention of hardcore fans as well as casual observers.
However, it never ceases to amaze just how central to the experience the commercials are. For years, brands have spent millions for just a few seconds of airtime – and this year was more expensive than ever: $5.6 million for a 30-second spot, in fact.
Even considering the millions of Americans who watch the Super Bowl each year, this may seem exorbitant considering the commercials are when many people grab more food, go to the bathroom, or debate Kyle Shanahan’s end-of-half clock management. However, that analysis misses the real value of a Super Bowl ad: the good ones are fodder for weeks of online discussion and are shared frequently enough to provide tons of value for their respective brands.
Drive Effective Messaging With Social Listening
There is an entire cottage industry around determining which commercials resonated most strongly with viewers – just consider the lists across just about every major publication ranking the best commercials from this past year. But how should brands themselves gauge reaction to their ads on social media, where most of this sharing takes place? Better yet, how could brands have monitored social media before the Super Bowl to ensure their messaging would be perfectly calibrated to join a pre-existing conversation, and amplify aspects about their brand people already responded positively to?
Maru/Matchbox’s Influencer Social Listening Tool dives deep into the social conversation to help brands make sure they have their finger on the pulse. The tool utilizes AI technology to identify the influencers that have the greatest impact on the social conversation within a topical community. What sets it apart is a focus on who matters; by analyzing how members of a community relevant to your business reacts to content, tweets, websites and more. By identifying a community around a given subject, and pinpointing the most influential members of that community, you gain unique insight into the way in which the most vital brand interactions occur online.
How could this valuable tool have been utilized for the 2020 Super Bowl to drive effective messaging? One of the main benefits of the influencer social listening tool is that it allows the brand to seamlessly join, and enhance, existing conversation surrounding the brand. The alternative, attempting to kick-start a conversation with an attention-grabbing stunt, often works but carries substantial risk. Let’s examine a brand whose ad rollout began – and suffered the downside of that risk – before the game even started.
Super Bowl 2020: Were Viewers Into The Nut, or Not?
A few weeks before the Super Bowl, Planters debuted a commercial in which the company’s spokes-legume, Mr. Peanut, perished in an attempt to save actors Matt Walsh and Wesley Snipes. Reactions on social media were mixed, with some users earnestly attempting to play along with the bit. Unfortunately, the audience that seemed most receptive to the ad was chiefly made up of social media managers for other brands – and even the best back-and-forths between two brands’ social media accounts have a “How do you do, fellow kids?” feel to them.
Among the users who should matter most to Planters, real-life influencers most likely to be followed and trusted by their customers and prospective customers, reactions had a much more mocking tone. Still, the brand leaned further in by planning a “funeral” for Mr. Peanut, editing his Wikipedia page to refer to him in past tense, encouraging use of the “#RIPeanut” hashtag, and even distributing “prayer candles.”
However, this commitment to the campaign backfired just days later following a tragic helicopter crash that killed nine people including Kobe and Gianna Bryant. Planters pulled the campaign and apologized for the timing of their ad. While the brand had no way to predict this major news story, it’s worth noting that this macabre angle could have been undermined by a pretty wide range of circumstances.
The actual Super Bowl commercial, when it arrived, was fairly light on emotion. It did depict a funeral scene (attended by other brand mascots, of course), but quickly made it clear Mr. Peanut would be reincarnated – and very helpfully provided another hashtag, “#BabyNut,” through which Twitter users could express their relief. How effective has this been in the aftermath? While some Baby Nut meme pages have sprouted up, most seem to be extensions of the campaign rather than proof of a viral moment.
“There is as much wisdom in listening as there is in speaking”
The great thing about reincarnation is that, if we’re lucky, we get the chance to correct the mistakes we may have made in our past lives. So if young Mr. Peanut wants to wade back into the social media discourse, he may want to consider using Maru/Matchbox’s Influencer Social Listening tool with sentiment analysis to ensure his message is perfectly calibrated to reach the users who matter most. Otherwise, he may once again find himself shell-shocked by the reaction.