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Hush Up And Just Enjoy Those Super Bowl Ads

I’m always fascinated with the day-after fallout of the Super Bowl adfest. There are plenty of people doing their Monday morning armchair quarterbacking thing, lamenting how terrible the commercials were and how much they continue to suck year after year. It’s at this point I try to take my branding hat off and recognize something I think is rather important. The commercials were not made for us. They were made for the 95% of everyone else who wants to be entertained. They were made for people like my dad who could give two craps if there was an overabundance of slapstick violence and dudes trying to pick up chicks (Love you, Dad!). The only metric here is whether the ads were amusing and some of them were very amusing and entertaining, indeed.

Time for all of us who claim to be brand and online cognoscenti to get off our high horse and recognize that Super Bowl ads are not Shakespeare and they don’t need to be earth-shatteringly original. These commercials are made to appeal to a broad population and that population sits right in the middle of America. Like it or not. They like watching Betty White and Abe Vigoda get creamed in a football game, they like dudes wearing Doritos and attacking people, (and I guess they must like guys wandering the African savanna in their underwear).

Of course, feel free to not take my word for it. I grew up on Benny Hill and The Three Stooges so dumb, risque, slapstick humor is part of my cultural heritage.

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Three Reasons Why Micro Wins Business

From Marketing Vox comes Half of Communicators Think Twitter’s a Fad. Actually, I would wager that you could substitute just about any business-related profession in place of “Communicators.” It happens every time a evolutionary shift takes place and individuals are confronted with the need to change. The data behind this latest article comes from Ragan Communications and PollStream. And for more commentary on the study, definitely read blogposts from MarketingCharts and Ragan (the comments are insightful, as well).

For me, here’s what the study drives home.

1. A shift from the masses to the micro.
Here’s a quote from Bob Hirschfeld, senior public information officer for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory:

“[Twitter’s a fad] because everybody’s doing it. Ashton Kutcher and CNN have a steady supply of fans who want to know what they do. People like us, people with a job to do, every so often we do something of interest to the general public [but] we don’t have that steady supply of stuff that the public is interested in.”

I think this viewpoint spotlights how professionals are struggling to overcome the old focus on how to speak to the masses. If you can’t speak to as many people as possible, then the effort is futile. You see this every time someone uses generalized words like “public”; in this case, Hirschfeld is concerned there’s just not a “steady supply of stuff that the public is interested in.” I’ll submit that aiming for the masses is no longer an efficient or productive action. The individuals and organizations who will succeed in the new world of business will be the ones who know their power niches and can communicate with them in a personally relevant way.

2. Broadcasting might not be dying, but it’s no longer the sole answer.
With that said, I don’t believe that broadcasting is dying. There’s still a place for it as a communications vehicle. Websites such as CNN, BBC News, ESPN, etc. still serve up broadcasted information. But the critical difference is that broadcasting is no longer the only mechanism for communicating with your audience. Most of the better sites understand this and allow visitors to personalize their delivery (see BBC News for a good example).

Other sites build around smaller, more interest-focused communities, which takes the micro to deeper level (see what Sony has done with their Backstage 101 or what DadLabs.com is doing with fathers). Someone tied to the old ways of viewing business might see this as a negative fracturing of their audience base. They’re liking thinking, “Crap, now I have to have multiple talking points for all these different audiences.” And again, that thinking exposes the mass approach that is no longer viable.

But rather than freaking out and seeing this as yet another sign of the apocalypse, consider what incredible advantages the micro-level offers to business. Rather than taking the shotgun approach that tries to hit as many people as possible (with the inherent dilution of overall message), communicators can approach each community and audience niche as a tailor-made occasion to develop messages that are relevant to the individual.

3. The future will require changes to your business thinking and operations.
We’re in the midst of a huge shift away from one way communication (at both mass and micro levels) and toward multi-vocal dialogue. And yes…this will require some changes to the way organizations think and operate, as well as to the way they communicate internally and with customers. As Josh McColough, a communicator at Sherman Health, notes: “The trick is to keep information coming and conversation active.”

Effective business is going to be about building relationships and personally-relevant dialogue rather than continuing the old trick of blindly bludgeoning a public with broadcasted communications. The only question is: Which side of this divide do you want to find yourself on?

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