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February 8, 2010

Hokey Pokey Marketing Meets the Super Bowl

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Remember the old game from your days on the playground, the Hokey Pokey?

All the kids would gather in a circle and then start wiggling their extremities while singing a catchy little ditty that went something like this:

hokey pokey lolcat

You put your right foot in,
You put your right foot out,
You put your right foot in
And you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey Pokey
And you turn yourself around.
That’s what it’s all about!

The Marketing Hokey Pokey

It seems like companies are stuck in a game of Hokey Pokey when it comes to forming a marketing strategy. They go all in for digital media. A change of course and now it’s all about online media. The back and forth makes my head spin — and not in the good way that a much younger me would try to capture by spinning in circles ’til I got so dizzy I’d fall to the floor in giggles. (Okay, I know I’m not the only one…)

Case in point: Super Bowl ads, newcomers, and usual suspects missing in action.

Traditional Advertisers Ditch the Super Bowl

Last month the word got out that Pepsi was putting an end to its 23-year run in the Super Bowl, skipping out as an advertiser at this year’s event. Why’d Pepsi choose to open the door for Coca-Cola to be the only soda maker advertising at the big game? Because instead of spending million of dollars on a 30-second commercial, Pepsi is going after engagement through the promise of social media.

Lauren Hobart, chief marketing officer for Pepsi-Cola North America Beverages, summed it up in an interview with Time.com: “It’s a big shift. We explored different launch plans, and the Super Bowl just wasn’t the right venue, because we’re really trying to spark a full-year movement from the ground up. The plan is to have much more two-way dialogue with our customers.”

Cadillac is another brand that has changed its tune this year, despite long-standing roots as a Super Bowl sponsor. For most of the last decade, Cadillac has offered the Super Bowl MVP his choice of the Cadillac fleet. Not this year. Again it begs the question, “Why not?”

In a report from Fox News, Nick Twork, Cadillac public relations director, explained: “We’re focusing our marketing efforts on activities that allow customers to get behind the wheel of our Cadillacs. This is a different stance than we’ve taken in the past when we’ve tried to raise awareness for our brand.”

Rather than run a brand-boosting ad during the Super Bowl, Pepsi would rather build relationships with consumers online, and Cadillac would rather get people into its cars. It seems that building a brand — for those who already have one, at least — has fallen behind online and real-world interaction.

Internet Mega Brand Tries Its Hand In the Old World

Then again, on Sunday we saw one of the Internet’s dominant players, Google, jumping into traditional marketing with a Super Bowl commercial. Google re-used a video that it first published online months ago, sharing it with mainstream viewing audience of the Super Bowl. The commercial was well-received, despite some analysts wondering why the company would choose to promote its already-vastly-dominant search product when it has other products, such as the Nexus One, struggling in its market. Still, whatever product Google decided to advertise, we watched as an online giant stepped into the world of traditional media.

At the same time, Google is having trouble finding success in the very place the formerly traditional-minded brands like Pepsi and Cadillac are gravitating: social media. Rumors abound of a status update-like feature coming to Gmail this week, a lackluster new feature offering that screams “me too!” — much like many of Google’s forays into the social space. (See: real-time search, Google Profiles, Google Talk, Orkut…)

While Google has time and again proved an innovator in search, it’s been nothing but a follower in social. As for traditional marketing, did it work? USA Today’s Ad Meter ranked Google’s ad 43 out of 63.

A Never Ending Game?

It would seem, then, that the advertisers shifting their strategy to focus on online engagement are on to something. And rising to the challenge, a study by Econsultancy and ExactTarget suggests that 70 percent of marketers plan to increase online marketing budgets in 2010. What a pretty picture that report paints… until we see another wrench thrown into the frame.

We’re already starting to see some social participation fatigue creeping in, as evidenced by diminishing participation in social answer service Aardvark. The back and forth of pros and cons for traditional and new media are enough to make this blogger wish for the simpler times of Hokey Pokey games.





One response to “Hokey Pokey Marketing Meets the Super Bowl”

  1. James Shepherd writes:

    Living in Britain I wasn’t privvy to the ad campaigns surrounding Super Bowl – however, what you’re saying is being replicated around the world (although this is nothing new).

    Businesses see an opportunity to sell more of their product through advertising: first it was print, then radio, then TV, then online. This last channel is now diverging from simply online into social, mobile and apps.

    As you intimate companies need to be very careful with their marketing strategies. Simply expecting a platform which gives opportunities for a greater level of interactment and engagement with customers to produce results could be naive. Especially if at the same time they are cutting their traditional “brand” spend – allowing other multinationals air-time.

    Done right I think social will work for the compaanies you mention – but I think a phased approach in the current global economic climate would be more prudent.



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