It was recently reported in AdAge that 80 percent of Super Bowl advertising last year was ineffective at raising purchase interest and generating sales.
That's because, I believe, you can't look at Super Bowl advertising, or any advertising, in a vacuum. Advertising only works when it's part of an integrated marketing plan to consistently engage with customers on their terms.
But that's also why Super Bowl advertising can work. It provides entertainment value at a time when customers are looking for it. So if your goal is to entertain and drive mass awareness when your customer is watching the game, then the Super Bowl could be a great venue for advertising -- if you have $4 million to spend on a 30 second ad.
As business owners, you shouldn't lament that you can't advertise during the big game. Chances are you're not looking to drive mass awareness of that kind, so it wouldn't be effective in driving sales anyway. But that doesn't mean you have to walk away from the idea of Super Bowl marketing entirely. You just have to be clever, local and integrated.
Take a look at one of last year's winners, Gardiner's Furniture, a small furniture business in Baltimore whose home team won the Super Bowl.
This entrepreneur was able to score big sales with a local Super Bowl promotion where he offered a full refund of his Super Bowl week's furniture sales if the Ravens scored a 2-point conversion. As luck would have it, that's exactly what happened. Because he planned right, he bought an insurance policy to protect himself in case it did. The resulting hype generated incremental sales on top of what he had already secured.
The strategy proved that you don't have to be a big brand to use a pop culture moment like the Super Bowl to your advantage.
This is particularly true when you have a local connection to the game. With New York/New Jersey as host this year, the local marketing activity will be on overdrive, as local businesses use the hype around the game in get in on the action. The same will be true for the hometowns of the two teams playing.
Since the game will be on the minds of many in the region, business owners should use the opportunity to make a connection with customers.
Run Super Bowl promotions to drive traffic to your store or site, jump on the Super Bowl hashtag in social media to grab some of the attention, and tie your brand's messaging to the participating teams to make an emotional connection. It'll show people that you are into the game as much as they are, creating a magical connection that will drive them to you.
Much of this doesn't have to cost a lot of money. By merely adding a Super Bowl theme to what you are already doing, you can create "in the moment" marketing that stimulates sales. Social media is a great way to piggyback on the action without really spending any more money at all.
For example, ask people to take a selfie with your brand in it for instant savings. I predict it will be the "Instagram Super Bowl" this year, with selfies a plenty, so why not ride that wave?
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.
Jim Joseph is the North American president of New York-based communications agency Cohn & Wolfe, part of the media company WPP Group PLC. He is the author of three books, including the latest, The Personal Experience Effect (Happy About 2013). Joseph also teaches marketing at New York University and blogs at JimJosephExp.com.