This probably won’t surprise you — but I watched the Super Bowl 2015 ONLY for the commercials. I don’t particularly care who is playing – or how they play. But the commercials? I’m all in! What I loved about Super Bowl 2015 (and Super Bowls in general) is that it seems to be the one time of year when brands step out and take a stand. When they pitch their “Big Idea Marketing.” When they really show us what they care about and how they believe they play a role in making the world a better place.

In my perfect world, this level of clarity should be the “big idea” could take place any day — not just Super Bowl Sunday. After all, all good businesses are really in business to improve the world in some profound way. We should tell that story more often than just once a year.

Super Bowl 2015 – The Big Idea Marketing Winner

Hands down, I think the run-away winner at Super Bowl 2015 was Always with their #LikeAGirl Commercial. This commercial does a tremendous job of capturing their “big idea” and driving it home in a significant way. Full disclosure, I’m not usually one to jump on most women’s lib type positions, but I have to admit — this one got me. And I’m all in; it’s time to Rewrite The Rules for girls and fundamentally change our society’s acceptance of girls. Why this one worked an SO MANY, don’t is because it presented a relatively common assumption and it’s fallacies in a clear and honest way. It only presented the situation, the assumptions, and then shot the assumption down – in flames.

Carnival stepped up to big thought at Super Bowl 2015 in a significant way with their “Return to the Sea” commercial, featuring an excerpt of a speech from John F. Kennedy. Talk about taking the “fun” ship to an unprecedented “elemental ” level. This was a HUGE departure from their brand position — but it worked (if they back it up). And it imbues the “fun” ship with more substance than it had mere hours before.

McDonald’s joined the fray at Super Bowl 2015, a week after making a CEO change with a hugely on-position campaign that extends their brand positions “I’m Lovin’ It.” This is a great spot that has the potential to help them dramatically extend their position, and in the short run, gain a fair amount of foot traffic. Going forward, if they can just pick one brand position now (I’m lovin’ it) AND STICK WITH IT, they have a real shot at getting back their dwindling market share. (As readers of this blog, you’ll no-doubt know that the problem is that they haven’t picked Just One Thing and they’ve confused all their customers and potential customers. Check out my post on their poor ability to pick one thing from 2013 here.)

Microsoft gave it a good try with their “Empowering Us All” series. It was good — what it really missed was the chance for each of us to connect emotionally with the proposition. The ideas presented were good — but I have to admit a disconnect with how a “Brilliant Bus” or outfitting my child with prosthetics applies to ME. And at the end of the day, great marketing is really all about “me“. That’s why the Always spot worked, as a female, I can connect with the message and feel moved to want to change the perception.

Coke also gave it a try with their #MakeItHappy spot. Unfortunately, the idea was a little too esoteric and too removed from my (personal) ability to influence. Sure, I’d love to live in a world in which technology helps to make us all happy — but, not at the expense of lies and falsehoods — which seemed to be a necessary component to the #MakeItHappy spot.

Dodge showed up in a big way for their centennial with their #Dodge Wisdom spot at Super Bowl 2015. There wasn’t much that could go wrong here, get a handful of people who’ve lived more than 100 years to share their wisdom and equate that to the wisdom Dodge has learned over the last 100 years. Earth-shattering? No. Smart? Absolutely!

Strangely, rounding out the Big Idea Marketing ideas at this year’s Super Bowl 2015, was American Family Insurance. They highlighted 5 unknown singers (and 1 really, really famous one), to give them a shot at their American Dream. I’m not sure it worked, but it was a good try and props for the effort. It, like Coke’s, failed to give me a way to connect with the Big Idea personally, but it was a feel good — and I can see how it fits into their brand position.

So that was the game, now what?

I’m *hoping* that this year’s Super Bowl 2015 commercials merely mark the beginning of the brand’s overall embrace of Big Idea Marketing. How great would it be to live in a society that didn’t feel it was necessary to “dumb down” an idea so that the masses could both understand and accept it? Let’s make 2015 the year of smart marketing that changes the world, while it makes a profit for business. The ideas don’t have to be mutually exclusive — in fact branding and market, dominance tends to work best when brands aren’t afraid to share their big idea and to enlist customers, and potential customers into their ranks.

About the Author:

Tisha Oehmen

Tisha Oehmen is a professional brand strategist and a leader in the branding field. She has been named a member of the Global Guru’s Top 30 Brand Gurus. She is also the co-founder of Oregon-based Paradux Media Group and the best-selling author of the book, Finding Brand: The Brand Book Tutorial.

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