Would you rather be shackled by a fear of offending or so oblivious to what’s appropriate that you use a speech from a hero of the civil rights movement to shift product? Those were the ends of the spectrum Super Bowl viewers were confronted with.
If you missed the fanfare around the Super Bowl earlier this week, you’re forgiven. It’s not a sport we pay much attention to here in New Zealand but as far as sporting and entertainment spectacles go, it doesn’t get much bigger.
The highly publicised Super Bowl adverts were going for more than US$5m a pop this year and from a communication standpoint it raises an interesting question: when you spend that much money on an advert, what message do you want to get across?
The New Yorker amusingly joked that the message Ram Trucks wanted to get across was: ‘if Jesus Christ drove a pickup, he’d most likely drive a Ram.’
In their infinite wisdom, this is what Ram decided was a good idea.
Using Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, a man of integrity who committed his life to fighting for equality and justice, to flog trucks is a move which has understandably been met with a backlash.
Ram likely set out to engender feelings of goodwill but has ended up doing the exact opposite.
And what of the other Super Bowl adverts? The general feeling amongst the majority of observes was one of vanilla. “Many of the spots felt handcuffed or held back — so cautious about drawing a laugh or provoking viewers that the primary reaction was just, well, disappointment,” wrote one commentator.
There were a couple of exceptions:
Let’s face it, who doesn’t want to see Morgan Freeman rapping to Missy Elliot?!
The hands-down winner for me was Tide with its satirical take on stereotypical Super Bowl adverts:
But overall, the ads were pretty lacklustre and reflected a trap a lot of organisations fall into where they’re so desperate to avoid causing any offence that they end up just being bland.
It’s a fine line to toe because if you try something and get it wrong, you end up being Ram.
But in this age of offence, there’s a real opportunity to be the colour in an exceedingly black and white landscape. Doing that in your advertising is one thing, but doing it in your day-to-day interactions with your customers is where you can make some real wins.
Empowering your staff with the authority to interact with customers like human beings with personalities, instead of a robots, can win your audience over and generate some great PR.
Take this list of the ‘most brilliant customer service exchanges ever seen on Twitter’ for example.
Giving staff the freedom to express themselves is something that Transport for London absolutely knocks out of the park. By allowing staff at train and tube stations across the city to craft their own messages on notice boards, they create a positive experience for commuters and inject some humour and sunshine into what could have otherwise been a grey London day.
So if you feel your organisation could do more to stand out from the crowd, have a chat to us at The Clarity Business – we’re full of creative ideas to help position you in a way that aligns with your objectives.
Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Daniel McCabe