The Super Bowl of Branding

With all the chatter following any Super Bowl, it's easy to lose sight of your own favorites in all the noise. The noise today is about Coca-Cola, Budweiser and Chrysler.

Coca-Cola released an ad with America The Beautiful  sung in languages from around the world, symbolizing that America is beautiful in any language or culture. The backlash from many folks was related to the patriotic nature of that song. Reactions may be tied to efforts over the last century to give America the Beautiful legal status either as a national hymn, or as a national anthem equal to or in place of The Star-Spangled Banner

It's clear to me that this ad was created for the global audience of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, which begins within a week of the Super Bowl. I'm also pretty sure that Coca-Cola didn't see this one coming. Coca-Cola went after the largest global audience with this message ignoring the fact that there is still only a small segment of early adopters agreeing with the global message.

As I've often told my clients, you can't just skip over the chasm, you have to cross it naturally. Coke would have better off having a celebrity-endorser with a global audience guide the audience through the message. This would humanize and personalize the message, shielding Coke from the brunt of negative feedback. 

The irony is that Coca-Cola is a domestically-held company, while Budweiser and Chrysler pitched patriotism as foreign-owned companies. 

Budweiser's A Hero's Welcome show's a flash-parade surprising a soldier upon his arrival back home. Reaction to this ad, along with Puppy Love, garnered overwhelmingly positive feedback for Budweiser. As a GenXer, I wasn't around for the Vietnam comparison, but my concern is that military homecomings may become commercial/political props in the near future. 

Chrysler's message continued where Eminem started, re-introducing Chrysler as "imported from Detroit." I find this messaging brilliant. Bob Dillan's classicly edgy appeal is a good fit with Chrysler's tone. "Detroit made cars, and Detroit made America," Dylan says. "Let Germany brew your beer. Let Switzerland make your watch. Let Asia assemble your phone. We will build your car." This is a strong and emotional position. It won't sell a car, but it sells a brand. 

The big winners of the day were Doritos (again) and Radio Shack. 

Doritos' Time Machine ad was created by one of their fans, as Doritos has done for the last several years. I hope this one wins the million bucks. It had me laughing out loud. 

Radio Shack's The 80's Called is a hilarious admission by the dated retailer that they are stuck in the Doritos time machine. Hulk Hogan, Alf, Mary Lou Retton, Ponch, Twisted Sister and Cliff Claven all made an appearance. If they actually follow up by remodeling stores, they have a shot at winning some business from the late majority and laggards who all collectively said, "Hey, remember Radio Shack? I think I'm a member of their Battery Club." 

I give honorable mention to T-Mobile, who has finally come to realize that their best market position is as an alternative to the big two rather than among the big three. Partnering with Tim Tebow is an outstanding alignment. I hope they continue with follow-up messaging with their new offer to buy out existing contracts so we can all see the damage it will likely do to at&t. 

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// Kyle Sexton is a marketing strategist and international speaker. His innovations have been featured in The Wall Street Journal, and his book ReMembership: New Thinking for Tomorrow's Membership Organization is fueling transformations in membership organizations throughout North America. He can be reached at 888.899.8374 or get his free resources at KyleSexton.com.

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