Battle of the 2016 Super Bowl Ad Reviewers

To take your mind off whatever tsuris you may be feeling about our nation hurtling toward anarchy, for the third year in a row we take you briefly back to Sunday’s state of guacomole-induced stupor, to compare critics’ reviews of the all-important Super Bowl ads.

SuperBowlads2016

Like our politicians, once again it’s clear that the critics can’t agree on much (unless it involves dachshunds dressed up as hot dogs.)

And once again we realize that John Wanamaker was right: 50% of advertising is wasted. Unlike Mr. Wanamaker, in this case we have a pretty good feeling about which 50% may have been involved.

Crouch-Super-Bowl-Ads-2016

At the bottom of this post is a remarkable chart comparing major reviewers (color-coded green/yellow/pink) for all the spots run during Sunday’s game.  It’s pithy!
NOTE: ads are grouped by my rankings of green/yellow/pink but are alphabetically listed within those large groups.

A few observations:

First of all, if Super Bowl 50 was such an amazing success, why were there approximately 260 CBS ads taking up valuable ad space?

Humor seems to be back, and boy do we need it. (Celebrities are back, too)
– unfortunately, sophomoric humor was also in full schwing! (Amy Schumer, I’m talking to you)

kia-walken-superbowl-ad

Generally well-accepted spots had breakthrough, were straightforward, enjoyable, had product as hero – – and you came away knowing what the brand was
Audi’s Commander, Kraft/Heinz Wiener Stampede, Toyota Prius The Longest Chase, Doritos Ultrasound (I was not a fan), Avocados from Mexico Avocados in Space, Bud Light Bud Light Party, Hyundai Genesis First Date, Hyundai Elantra Ryanville, Amazon Echo Baldwin Bowl Party, Advil Distant Memory

Disliked spots featured unappetizing topics or visuals, human ailments, made no detectable point, or were just stupid
AstraZeneca Opioid-Induced Constipation Envy, Squarespace Real Talk, SoFi Great Loans, Great People, Valeant Jublia Best Kept Secret, LG OLEG TV Man from the Future

PinkIntestine

Mtn Dew Kickstart PuppyMonkeyBaby carried the torch of 2014’s Doberhuahua, quite happy to spew the ridiculous in the craven quest for online buzz
– (by the way, it’s Mtn, not Mountain)

TurboTax_SuperBowl50NeveraSelloutEMBARGOEDFebruary7840pmET16

Some highlights:
– Anthony Hopkins’s perfectly executed tongue-in-cheek “I’m not selling out” pitch for TurboTax
Jeep’s spots (finally) taking advantage of its amazing legacy
Kia’s spot called ‘Walken Closet’ starring Christopher Walken. (Did the pun drive the copy?)

Key Peele

Some lowlights:
LG’s infuriatingly pointless waste of Liam Neeson and Ridley Scott’s talents
Squarespace’s infuriatingly pointless waste of Key & Peele’s talents
– Spots that required you to know the context (T-Mobile/Drake, T-Mobile/Steve Harvey, Hyundai Elantra/Ryan Reynolds)

A few spots had obviously high production values but were virtually ignored by reviewers – which makes one wonder if their $5 million+ was well spent:
Intel Experience Amazing, McDonald’s Good Morning, Bai Horse Whisperer, Pokémon 2.0, Wix.com Kung Fu Panda, Advil Distant Memory, Mobile Strike Fight

Finally, Weather Tech – this is I believe your 3rd Super Bowl ad.  You make a great product in an admirable way.  You are decent, hardworking, earnest people.
But maybe it’s time to step away from the cheese dip and have a beer.

weathertech

Click once or twice on the table below to make it more readable.

SuperBowl2016

Footnotes:
My evaluations are generally based on the Kellogg ADPLAN approachAttention
–Distinction
– Positioning
– Linkage
– Amplification
– Net Equity – – along with some personal gut feel.

Reviewers and links to reviews (if you were involved in any of the reviews and feel I got something wrong, let me know):
Kellogg Graduate School of Business – Northwestern University
Adweek
Ad Age
Chicago Tribune
Entertainment Weekly
New Yorker
Slate
USA Today
Variety
Washington Post
Wall Street Journal
Yahoo Sports

See you next year!

4 Simple Innovation Approaches for 2016

Year-end innovation reviews often focus on the past year’s cool new things. But coolness doesn’t guarantee big success (see: Apple Watch).   And innovation doesn’t always mean new things.

True innovation is successfully meeting your target audience’s needs in a new way.

2015 saw its share of new ways to connect with the audience.
In some cases, marketers successfully grew their businesses by figuring out new ways to connect with consumers with the same products.

So in an effort to suck the fun out of this simple post, The Armchair MBA has created a handy Innovation Quadrant Chart, with examples, to illustrate his point.

Quadrant 1

 

  • One axis is whether the product is existing or new, the other is whether the use or market is existing or new

The point is that while cool stuff is, well, cool — creative marketers can find meaningful growth with existing products or existing markets.

Existing product/Existing market

Geico-gecko

  • GEICO has had the same marketing strategy for over 200 years, and its ads are so ubiquitous that breaking through the clutter and maintaining awareness is a big challenge.  GEICO knows that no one will voluntarily sit through another GEICO ad, given the option.  What to do?

To address this issue, GEICO co-opted the annoying and often ignored pre-roll (the ads shown before the video content you are waiting to see). The viewer is thus ambushed with the main message within the first few seconds (“You can’t skip this GEICO ad – because it’s already over”), and the rest of the spot is essentially wasted (but still amusing) airtime.

  • GEICO gets in a quick reminder and the rest of the spot is engineered for viral use.

Watching these actors keep straight faces while the dog destroys their dinner table (after the first 5 seconds) is worth the wait.

Existing product/New market

McDonalds_all-day

  • McDonald’s has endured years of lackluster growth in the face of fast casual and burger competitors (e.g. Panera, Chipotle, Shake Shack).
  • To drive growth, they’ve streamlined their menu, added promotions, experimented with new products (revamped Quarter Pounder, Premium Sirloin Burger), and even tweaked their positioning (removing antibiotics from chicken, going to cage-free eggs).

But the most successful move so far has been Breakfast All Day, started nationally in October 2015. Apparently 1/3 of the later-day breakfast customer had not visited McDonald’s in the prior month, leading to McDonald’s first quarterly year-on-year growth in 2 years.

  • The jury is out as to how durable this growth is, but by leveraging tried-and-true products to compete in new markets (lunch), McDonald’s has reenergized the business.

New Product/Existing Market

bragi_the_dash_front_2x_1_2

  • A company called Bragi recently introduced “the world’s first wireless smart earphones”, called The Dash.
  • By eliminating wires they’ve solved a significant consumer issue, and by integrating a music player, tracking and communications features, The Dash is a formidable (and at $299, costly) new alternative on the landscape.
  • These earphones are unlikely to bring in new users, but these features are very likely to steal market share – – again, by identifying and solving an existing consumer need in a new way.

New Product/New Market

trackr-bravo-key-7b15fafca0f9abb0bc1dbd4579935a53

  • Finally, a company called TrackR Inc. introduced a product called Bravo, which is a coin-sized device that attaches to things like keys, and by using an associated app, allows the user to find these often-misplaced items. It costs around $30.
  • By applying technology to an increasing annoyance for an aging population, TrackR has essentially created a market of small, inexpensive ‘memory helpers’.

These examples are a very small slice of lots of creative approaches that were taken in 2015 to grow business.

The key for marketers is to understand unaddressed consumer needs (even if the consumers don’t know they have a need yet), understand what assets and barriers are at work, and offer a better way.

Quadrant 2

It is unclear whether anyone has yet solved the problem of helping you remember what you were going to get when you went down to the basement.

Man vs Machine – Parts 2 and 3

Recently I observed a hair salon employee rejecting a customer’s minor request for his son to get his haircut first, solely because he had made his appointment online, and she was unable to override ‘Corporate Policy’ (as dictated by the technology).

My point was that while technology is often designed to enhance the user experience (and this chain’s reservation system is actually very good), we cannot ignore the value of personal interaction and judgment.

Since then I’ve experienced 2 more man vs. tech situations – one of which was negative, the other positive.

Schlotzkys

Case 1:  Schlotzsky’s Deli, Denver Airport.  Schlotzsky’s makes a fine sandwich, and has apparently long used kiosks, presumably to speed the ordering process.  (According to Schlotzsky’s, these were first introduced in tech-savvy Austin TX in 2002 to improve the customer experience!  Of course.)

I suspect the real reason is that since sandwiches are pretty modular, it lends itself to a automated selection approach, credit card payment, limited human interaction and most importantly, reduction in personnel cost.

The kiosks are fine, but an airport is a unique situation – – customers are by definition not locals, so the kiosk requires some instant learning.  And the lack of interaction with a human (their only role is to hand you the food) somehow depersonalizes an eating experience, which somehow makes it seem more like a vending machine and less like a temporary respite from the typically solitary travel experience.

The biggest issue is that despite all of the technology, my food preparation speed was glacial (I had to yell to the kitchen to start my sandwich), and for me there was absolutely no benefit to the kiosk.  The only employees visible had an expression of detached ennui.  Not a great experience.

Airport_Parking

Case 2:  O’Hare Parking.  I’ve used O’Hare for years and they have just recently un-manned the parking booths – no more attendants taking your money. In their stead is an automatic card reader (takes both your parking ticket as well as your credit card).

Now THIS is technology working for us!  In the past, the attendants were extremely slow, even though (maybe because) they were processing tons of mind-numbingly similar transactions that required zero judgment.

Now, you zip the ticket in, zip your card in, and you’re on your way.  The computer never gets bored or sullen.

Technology is helping facilitate a multitude of transactions that we make every day.  We just need to remember that when it comes to optimizing the human experience, technology can be amazing, but for some things there’s no substitute for the human touch.

Hopefully there’s an opportunity for the former parking attendants at a nearby Schlotzsky’s.

Customer satisfaction – the short path often beats the long road

Sometimes we need to be reminded that simple customer satisfaction is almost always the goal of most businesses – and that policies and procedures are merely means to that end.

A recent, hard-to-believe experience brought this to my attention.

Frustrated

While getting my ears lowered at my local chain haircut emporium (whose name still escapes me even after years of visits) a man came in who had apparently booked an appointment online for himself and his son.

The man was called up but asked that his son go first. The employee said that this was not possible; the computer indicated that he, not his son, was in the first position, and that it was corporate policy to do what the computer said.

The man politely but firmly mentioned that the online booking program does not allow one to enter preferences or even names of people; the order of haircut is randomly assigned – – and since it involved two family members (as opposed to two strangers), the order of haircut shouldn’t really matter.

Great Clips

Incredibly, the employee still refused to let the son go first, claiming it was “Corporate policy”.

The man understandably was confused and frustrated, but out of a surplus of good cheer he managed through the situation (after getting a more empathetic but no more satisfying repeat of the message from the store manager – “I’ll be sure to bring this up with Corporate”).

Corporate policy in this case would likely be in place for one of two reasons:

  • to avoid conflicts with two parties who have booked simultaneously
  • to gather information so that strategies and programs can be implemented to enhance the future experience of future customersShortPath

Now, I’m a big believer in insight-driven marketing; as described above it’s what one might call the ‘long road’.

HOWEVER, when the customer is standing right in front of you (or is on the phone, or in an online chat) the opportunity to create satisfaction is immediate – and needs to be taken!

As we enter the high holy season of shopping, this would be good for retailers to remember.

Not all Innovation is High-Tech. Not all High-Tech is Innovation.

To borrow an old punchline, sometimes companies innovate around technology ‘because they can’.*

A recent visit to the Hertz facility at the Denver airport illustrates the point – – innovation can only work when it is designed around the user experience.  Innovation that requires the user to adapt to technology, at the expense of experience, is not usually a blueprint for success.

My key car rental criteria are price, convenience and how fast I can get my car. At the counter, I preemptively say I don’t need an upgrade, don’t need insurance, and will fill it up myself. I also tell them they’re on the clock and my personal record is out the door in 3 minutes (although I had a wonderful 1:30 experience just this past week). It works, and it’s not nearly as jerky as it sounds. (really)

photo-1

So I was eager to experience the Denver Airport Hertz facility, which is huge (2500 s.f.) and bristling with open format desks, high-tech kiosks, and bumblebee-colored employees. The car rental facility of the future, right?  I’d be out of there in no time.

It was a disaster.  First, 25 minutes in a standard Disney-style winding line; then left the line and went to the separate line for a kiosk on the recommendation of a Hertz employee.  10 minutes to get to one of the kiosks, which needed assistance to operate.  The disembodied head on the kiosk video screen informed me that while I had a reservation, my car would not be available for at least another 30 minutes.  Except, of course, if I wanted to upgrade (at extra cost).  (we’ve seen this before)

I got mad and tracked down a manager, who finally gave me an upgraded vehicle without the upcharge (duh).  That was 45 minutes of hell in a facility that was presumably built on research and smart engineering.

The expensive technology and fancy building did nothing to help this experience.  The difficulties I had (kiosk operation, being held hostage for an upgrade) were resolved with the human touch.  The same human touch that gets me in-and-out of low-tech counters in under 5 minutes (often with a high-five to the counter person).Hertz charging

(Perhaps I should have thought more when I passed the cute ‘recharge’ station – under what conditions would you be using one of these at a car rental place?!).

photo 3

On the other hand, a recent Delta flight showed how smart innovation made the experience much better.  This was on a newly refurbished plane.

The overhead compartments had signs asking passengers to load their rolling bags vertically rather than horizontally, which gets more bags on the plane, and therefore keeps me from gate-checking.  Smart!  I win!

photo 1-1photo 5

Facing me on the bottom of the seat in front was an electrical outlet. I’ve seen these before but they’ve been awkwardly placed in a hard to reach place around my ankles, presenting the constant danger of feeling up my seat mate’s leg.

In both situations there was an outlet on each seat.  Delta figured out it’s better when you can see it.  Smart! I win again!

Technology has transformed our world and has fueled amazing innovation.  But this innovation has only worked when it has improved the user’s experience.  

Technology with no benefit is usually not lasting.

*it’s a guy joke.  If you don’t know it already, you probably wouldn’t appreciate it.

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are Bags of Chips

…and the other candidates are furniture.

There is a marketing lesson here; allow me to explain.

Everyone and their mothers and the horses they all rode up on have already weighed in on what’s driving the surprising dominance of Trump and Sanders in the polls to date.

Donald ChipsBernie Chips

The Armchair MBA looks at this as a lesson for marketers:

There is a clear difference between an impulse purchase and a considered purchase, demanding different approaches.  Depends on whether your goal is short-term or long-term (or maybe both).

  • Impulse purchases (like chips):
    – immediate consumption, no long-term commitment, low-risk, who cares
  • Considered purchases (like furniture):
    – longer-term implications, significant commitment, meaningful risk

As chips and as candidates, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders present the most powerful, clearly articulated and differentiated propositions that are intriguing to a segment of the population.

With virtually no risk in trying a chip (or answering a poll), the chips (and candidates) that stand out as different are more likely to get early trial and short-term success.
Other chips (candidates) have less extreme claims, are consequently less differentiated, and thus any one is less likely to gain a majority of trial (poll votes).

Candidate Chips

After trial (polling), however, things could change.

Trump chips, while very spicy, might present an unexpected burning sensation after ingestion.
And Sanders chips, while appealing conceptually, might not be particularly palatable or affordable.

In both cases, these chips will still likely retain loyal users, but would likely represent a smaller niche
– as candidates, the same might also be true

Chips that may be designed for more long-term market success will necessarily be positioned to garner a broader share of the population and have staying power. While less overtly exciting, they may have a more balanced combination of ingredients and claims.

As election time nears, candidates become viewed less like chips and more like furniture: a longer-term commitment that demands (at least hopefully for most people) more thoughtful consideration, doing research, shopping, weighing benefits vs. cost and risks.

NET: For short-term impact (trial), claims must be clear and differentiated.

For longer-term success, both claims and performance must be carefully crafted to meet the needs of a meaningful portion of the population.

Barbie-Glam-Dining-Room-Furniture-Set

Hopefully our voting public exhibits at least the same care in choosing their candidates as they do in picking furniture.

NEWS FLASH: Burger King Learns About Unintended Consequences

Last week Burger King ambushed McDonald’s with full-page ads in the New York Times and Chicago Tribune, suggesting the two chains combine forces with a one-time mash-up burger (the McWhopper), ostensibly to further the cause of World Peace.  McDonald’s CEO adroitly demurred via Facebook, suggesting there may be better ways to save the world.  This was covered by The Armchair MBA recently.

TreeLimb

BK’s goal seemed to be to bootstrap its profile inexpensively by forcing McDonald’s to publicly engage with a smaller competitor.

DennysBurger1

Now Burger King is dealing with smaller competitors trying to do the same thing to it.  Both Denny’s and Wayback Burgers (a 100-unit CT-based chain that features the ‘3 x 3’ —  a 9-patty burger) have reached out to Burger King, suggesting they would be happy to take McDonald’s place.

Wayback3x3

Denny’s took out its own tongue-in-cheek full-page ad in the New York Times, saying in part: “Hey @BurgerKing, We love the idea of a peace burger.  We’re just not sure what to call this thing.  Any ideas?  @DennysDiner

We have never heard of Wayback, and never considered Denny’s for burgers, so this seems like a great opportunistic play on their parts, driving awareness via media momentum initiated by someone else.

As for Burger King, while it hoped to trick the prom queen into a date, it is instead being asked to take its little sister to the movies.

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