The 2015 Brand Keys Super Bowl Ad Engagement Survey is predicting that only 46% of the 26 brands that have been identified as running commercials in this year’s game will score big among consumers. That’s slightly lower than the historical average of 50% for the study, now in its 13th year.
Among the brands identified as the most likely to both entertain and engage consumers are BMW, Doritos, Dove Men + Care, GoDaddy, Mercedes, Nissan, Pepsi, Skittles, Snickers, Toyota, WeatherTech and Paramount Pictures for Jurassic World.
According to consumers’ perceptions and social networking data, brands assessed to be highly entertaining but with low engagement potential include Budweiser, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Mophie and Lexus.
Brands that consumers perceive will not be entertaining and offer low engagement include Carnival Cruise Lines, Avocados Mexico, Kia, Nationwide, TurboTax, Wix.com and Loctite.
Robert Passikoff, Brand Keys founder and president, says all the commercials will be seen by a large audience, and brands are all hoping their spots will be creative successes, generate big buzz and get lots of exposure via social media. However, all those criteria are less important than emotional brand engagement, which Passikoff says is the one indicator that consumers may actually go out and purchase the product. And those brands that scored high in both perceived entertainment and perceived emotional engagement will be the big winners during the Super Bowl.
Passikoff says new mobile software research developed by Brand Keys, in conjunction with JoopLoop, has strengthened the company’s ability to better pinpoint consumer data for each brand.
With Super Bowl commercials selling in the neighboring of $4.5 million, in addition to increasingly high production costs, Passikoff says marketers need a new game plan when it comes to ad effectiveness and ROI.
“Monday morning creative quarterbacking is always fun,” he says, “and ad entertainment and social networking reviews generate lots of chatter, but these days that’s not enough. It doesn’t matter how many consumers tweet, like or share, if ultimately it doesn’t increase emotional brand engagement levels, positive consumer behavior, sales and profits. Otherwise what you’ve produced is a very short, very expensive movie.”
Passikoff points to the 2013 Volkswagen “Darth Vader” Super Bowl commercial that at the time generated massive social media buzz and is now the most shared Super Bowl commercial ever.
“It was certainly entertaining and got the brand lots of publicity, but in the long run it did not engage a mass number of consumers to buy the brand.” He says overall VW sales for 2013 were down by some 13%.
“Viewers may love to see kids or animals in commercials, and they may tweet about them and share them, but if the commercial doesn’t get them to buy the brand, then it is ineffective,” Passikoff says. “I understand one Super Bowl commercial doesn’t represent an entire campaign, but you can’t be spending $4.5 million plus production costs and not get that back in sales.”
WeatherTech, which makes car and truck floor mats, is returning to the Super Bowl for a second consecutive year. Passikoff points to the success it had in last year’s game due to the focus of its commercial on the value of its products and a theme that resonated with viewers.
“WeatherTech got Super Bowl viewers emotionally connected to its brand by stressing its products are made in America,” Passikoff says. “After the commercial aired, its sales grew, and the company is coming back.”
Question of Focus
Passikoff says too many Super Bowl advertisers don’t focus on their specific products and why consumers should invest in them, instead choosing be very generic and not differentiating why their brand is different from its competitors. And he says the importance and value of a Super Bowl commercial simply being entertaining has been on the wane for about 20 years but probably stopped having a real market effect around 2005.
As for those advertisers who release their commercials prior to the Super Bowl to get them exposure on social media, Passikoff calls that tactic an “insurance policy” for marketers who want to save face.
“In the absence of actual sales [generated by the Super Bowl ad] they can always point to tallies of tweets, and the numbers of Facebook likes and social network shares,” he says. “I know it’s sexy stuff, but it is an indicator of entertainment, not engagement. It does not trigger emotional attachment to a brand which results in sales.”
Regarding the use of cute animals in Super Bowl spots, Passikoff says if that really drew more sales, “all the Super Bowl commercials would have some portion of them devoted to kittens walking on a piano keyboard.”
Passikoff calls ROI an area that media and creative agencies and marketers have skirted for years. “I remind you that Nielsen was the company who said that ‘click-throughs’ were the best predictor of ad success, until five years ago when they said, ‘well not so much’ and went off to find another measurement. Now you’ve got folks touting time spent viewing an ad after clicking on it as an indicator of a successful ad.”
He says time spent viewing an ad does indicate a consumer engaged to an extent, but does not necessarily guarantee one will be motivated to go out and buy the product.
For the Brand Keys study, assessments of Super Bowl advertiser brands were collected via mobile software from a national sample of 2,705 men and women who indicated they were going to watch the Super Bowl and were category users of particular brands.
The Brand Keys algorithm measured social networking activities for brands advertising in the Super Bowl, consumers’ emotional engagement assessments for each brand itself and the brand within the context of the Super Bowl.
The research examined the 26 brands reported in the media to be Super Bowl XLIX advertisers and calculated the levels of emotional brand engagement and levels of anticipated ad entertainment, according to social interactions and buzz, and then perceptually mapped where consumers saw the brand falling.