Dove’s “choose beautiful” campaign reinforces commitment to long term strategy

Whether you love Dove or hate them, think they connect well with their target group, or are pirating a cause to hawk their wares, you can’t argue with the consistency or their messaging. Last week Dove launched another iteration of their “real beauty” campaign with #ChooseBeautiful, a global experiment spanning San Francisco, Shanghai, Delhi, London and Sao Paulo featuring women choosing to enter buildings through either the “beautiful” or “average” door. They filmed the results and documented reactions and discussion. At the heart of it is the message that women have the power to choose to feel beautiful. Have a look at the video here.



I’ve written extensively on this blog about their previous campaigns, which I’ve included as links at the bottom of this post. What is most remarkable is Dove’s power of consistency. Ever since the campaign for real beauty was conceived in 2004, Dove have been very focused. They have had a purpose and message consistent over time that reflects their values, and I think there’s something to be learned in that for all of us. Here’s a brief look at that consistency:

Global market research in 2004 revealed that only 4% of women considered themselves beautiful. Subsequently Dove embarked on the “Campaign for Real Beauty” to empower women to be comfortable in the skin they are in.

2004: Fat or Fab? Wrinkled or Wonderful billboards. Deemed controversial at the time, the conversation began.








2006: Little Girls (Released during 2006 Superbowl – tapped emotions and went mainstream).









2006: Evolution (Featuring the Photoshopped girl next door becoming billboard supermodel) This won Grand Prix advertising awards globally and won the hearts of consumers. Remember this was before the great unwashed realized how photos could be manipulated.









2007: Onslaught (A tour of advertising and its effects on young girls tapped emotional hot triggers particularly in the very industry that Dove competes in)









2008: Pro-Age (Showing mature women in their skin and not much else)










2010: Men Care (Launched during 2010 Superbowl)











2013: Sketches (Featuring the forensic artist and blind sketches mirroring personal perceptions)









2014: Patches (The beauty patch placebo – beauty is a state of mind)









2015: Dove Men Care (Real strength during 2015 Superbowl)









2015: Choose beautiful (Where door selection reflects personal perceptions)








While there has been branching off into new product lines, and occasionally new targets markets when focusing on older women and men, the core value of the message has been consistent: natural beauty and empowerment trumps all. So what’s to be learned from all this? As marketers, I think there are 3 things:

  1. Have a purpose.
  2. Have a consistent message over time.
  3. Ensure what you are doing reflects your values.

Truly Dove has achieved what few other brands have – purpose, consistency and values through a well targeted message and fresh new creative over time.

Here are some direct links to previous posts about Dove on this blog:

Dove patches: from tricks to truth and remaining true to their positioning 

Dove Real Beauty Sketches: a campaign of a movement?



Future Shop closure signals the shifting face of retail

On March 28, 2015 Future Shop announced the closure of 66 stores, and the conversion of a further 65 to Best Buy. It was a second major blow to Canadian retail, just over a month after Target’s announced retrench from the Canadian market place.

What on earth is going on?

Most would say that the Canadian economy is healthy, interest rates are low and confidence is high. These moves and the impending loss of 1,500 jobs from Future Shop alone, seem to indicate otherwise.

What’s really happening is a shift in the way Canadian’s are buying, and that must be reflected in the distribution model of retail.

Future-Shop-closesFuture Shop was launched in BC in 1982 and by 1990 had become Canada’s leading consumer electronics retailer. In 2001, American retail giant Best Buy purchased Future Shop for $580 million. The early to mid 2000s saw a major expansion of “big box” retail, mega stores with huge retail footprints. Many sectors experienced the trend. Big box retail knocked out smaller local competitors wherever they opened. Witness Chapters and Indigo in Canada and Barnes & Noble and Borders in the US rolling out huge bookstores. Staples and Business Depot took on the stationary and office supplies category. Pet Smart and Pet Cetera brought us everything pet related under one mega roof. Lowes and Home Depot became the big box go to for home improvement, causing other Canadian retailers like Canadian Tire to expand stores and offerings or fail. Walmart was probably the first all round big box discount category killer.

But big box retailing may have had its day.

Many companies that expanded their footprints aggressively in mid 2000s are now downsizing or consolidating significantly.

At the heart of the issue is the acceptance of online shopping. Collectively society has moved to a level of trust in online purchasing, and with the readily available bevy of information and non-bias reviews, many prefer it. Consumers often now shop in person to browse, touch and experience, and then retreat to the couch to buy online at the best price point. This trend is called showrooming. In fact, one bullish Australian specialty food retailer decided to charge a $5 “just looking fee” to enter the store, which would be deducted from anything purchased. That strategy is no doubt misguided, but it speaks to the frustration of retailers paying the overhead on physical stores.

The decision to close Future Shop was good business. The twin companies didn’t make financial sense and the separate branding, for arguably the same consumer electronic commodity, was always a bit of a mystery to consumers. They tried to brand the experience as different, Future Shop appealing to the urban tech savvy customer, and Best Buy to the suburban, less tech knowledgeable who didn’t want to deal with commissioned sales reps. But it became an unnecessary brand differentiation in a shrinking marketplace.

So where might retail be headed?

Best Buy has already signaled that they are moving to embrace online sales more aggressively. Along with closing half of Future Shop stores and converting the balance to Best Buys, I would also expect downsizing of some remaining locations. Ultimately what is needed is a model that accommodates strategically located local warehousing, with retail fronts to service pick up and same day delivery of online purchases across Canada.

We’ve already seen the digitization of content that can be delivered and sold online, such as music and video, knock out previous retail giants like HMV, Rogers and Blockbuster. This downsizing of commodity and price based retail to accommodate a hybrid model of face to face browsing and online buying with quick delivery, is really the next evolution. In the end, the only thing certain is change.

Here is a link to an interview I did with CBC the morning the Future Shop closure story broke.



And here’s an interview I did for an article in the North Shore News, further expanding my views on this subject:


Capilano University School of Business wins awards!

Students from Capilano University School of Business won first place in the Western Canada Business Competition last weekend. For anyone considering business schools and university options in Western Canada, this is a big deal! In addition to consulting, speaking and writing, I also teach marketing at a couple local universities, Capilano University being one. And having coached teams and accompanied them to competitions personally myself, I know what an accomplishment this is. Not to mention the time and preparation work. I’d like to share the great news and congratulate the students and faculty who made it all happen!

The Western Canada Business Competition is a multi-disciplined team competition where students manage business-to-business companies through a simulation platform. They make rigorous business decisions, submit a strategic plan and present to an experienced panel of business judges. The contest included months of preparation and three days of live competition at Okanagan College March 20-23.


First Place Team members:
Marco Fleury: CEO, CFO
Lucas Daley: VP Human Resources
Teneille Lewis: VP Marketing
Saulo Novais Ferreira: VP Operations

On a personal note, I was thrilled to be able to congratulate Lucas Daley, in my evening intro marketing class this week, and share the accomplishment with his peers in class.

Not only did the CapU team beat out Camousen College, College of New Caledonia, Okanagan College, College of the Rockies, Douglas College and Langara but these students all won their individual awards as best: CEO, VPs in Marketing/HR/Operations. Well done all round for this dream team coached by my colleague Andrea Eby!

And on another winning note…

CapU student Daniel Dubois named one of BC Business 30 under 30 winners

CapU School of Business student Daniel Dubois has been named one of this year’s winners of BC Business 30 Under 30 award recipients for his progressive business venture called ShareShed, launched on the leading edge of the sharing economy. Click here to link to the full article.

danielShareShed earned Dubois a spot as entrepreneur-in-residence at Hootsuite’s Next Big Thing Foundation, which kicked in $10,000 in startup funds. ShareShed also won $100,000 in in-kind support after placing first in the region at the Entrepreneurs’ Organization’s Global Student Entrepreneur Awards.

Well done all round to these young up and coming business students. Our future is in good hands!






Is it “time” for Apple to disrupt again?

Last week Apple launched the long anticipated and rumor rampant Apple Watch. As with all things Apple, product leaks and speculation had been swirling for some time. While not widely available for retail until April, CEO Tim Cook’s launch week was aimed squarely at building momentum and desire. Starting at $349 and spiraling upwards to over $1,000 with deluxe bells and whistles, and even available in a gold plated $10,000 model, this is obviously a product aimed at affluent early adopters in advanced economic regions of the globe.

Apple_watchThe question then begs, who is the target market? And will it be deemed a necessary addition to an Apple dedicated owners suite of products to compliment an iPhone and likely an iPad and Apple laptop or desktop?

The watch itself appears a slick marriage of technology, fashion and lifestyle. Christy Trulington Burns, an American model currently representing Calvin Klein’s Eternity campaign was chosen to launch the watch, no doubt for her fashion credentials. She is shown training for a half marathon in Africa using the watches fitness devices, highlighting her charity, Every Mother Counts, which works to combat maternal mortality. You can watch a video about how she uses the watch here. Given the watches personal trainer capabilities, Apple Pay system to tap and go like a wallet, and hands free messaging, being able to listen and dictate messages and emails, as well as general web browsing capabilities on a micro scale, my take is that the target market spans the fitness buff, the fashion forward, and the tech early adopter in general, and anyone who has already committed to other Apple products with fierce loyalty.

As such, the tap and go wallet or the hands free messaging capabilities on their own are enough to be a disruptive technology with significant uptake.


If you’re curious to learn more about the Apple Watch, here’s a link with some features and video about it.

Apple has a history of disruptive technology.

Just think about what the iPod did to the music industry, disrupting CDs and retail music distribution with iTunes. Just think about what the iPad did to ebooks, book retailing and distribution, and the way we interact with printed matter in general spanning to newspapers and magazines. And consider what the iPhone did to cell phone communication in general, launching the mobile internet, and a litany of apps we arguably can’t live without now, as well as disrupting the camera industry. One could argue their latest technology is now even disrupting their earlier technology. Why would you buy an iPod when your smartphone can hold it all? Maybe you don’t need an iPad mini if you have an iPhone 6 plus.

So could the Apple Watch do the same thing?

Certainly it changes the competitive turf for watch manufacturers. That’s a direct hit. What about credit cards and payment services? What about fitness bands like Nike Fuel and other fitness product devices? And what about smart phones in general? Could wearable voice activation communication eliminate the need to type on a device? It’s starting to feel a little like a Star Trek episode. Too bad Spock didn’t live to see it! The watch certainly could change the issue with distracted drivers texting. And it represents interesting challenges for faculty supervising students during exams.

Only time will tell once the early adopters have gobbled it up. If there is significant uptake, it certainly could be disruptive. There seems to a lot of buzz about wearable tech and the Apple watch could well be the gateway drug for broader acceptance.

What’s the lesson is all this for marketers?

I think we need to accept disruption and look for opportunity in it. Rather then fear the threats that come with it, focus on the changes needed now to possibly capitalize on shifts that could be coming. What might that look like?

  • Apps with simple interfaces suitable for super small screens.
  • Voice activated Apps.
  • Voice activated mobile friendly websites. While such a thing may not exist now, it likely will in the future. Perhaps I’ve just given you your next $1 million dollar idea?
  • Medical monitor of fitness vitals and wireless, remote one on one personal training.
  • Hotel room key free entry.

Remember, many people were stumped initially as to why we would all need an iPad when we already had a laptop and iPhone. And what on earth would we do with all those album covers if we could fit over 2,000 songs on a little thing called an iPod?

The marketing lesson ultimately is this: Sometimes we don’t know what we need until it arrives. And when there is significant uptake of a new disruptive technology, business needs to anticipate and prepare for the permanent shift taking place.


Trust and targeting: Two reasons to love word of mouth

We all know that word of mouth works. It’s one of THE most effective forms of marketing, and it doesn’t cost a cent. But have you stopped to consider WHY word of mouth is so golden?

It’s about trust. And it’s about targeting.

re-targetQuite simply we trust what our friends tell us. Generally they have our best interest in mind. Helping you reflects positively on them, and in the end, they are your friends after all. Friends are supposed to help friends.

But it’s also about targeting. In the vast world of marketing and advertising messages out there, good content can get lost in the clutter. Friends tend to filter content, selecting what to share based on their knowledge of your needs, interests and passions. Nobody filters content better then friends, not even a Facebook boost campaign! The beautiful thing is that friends also tend to know what is timely content. Timely is important because it is what will resonate with you at a particular moment. It could be that they know you are looking to get your roof replaced. Or they know you’ve been thinking of going back to school. Or maybe they know you just needed a good laugh this morning after a stressful week. Friends share what you need and what will make them look good.

Did you catch that last line? It’s about what will make THEM look good.

If you provide content that will make someone look smart, insightful, funny, or connected to an inner circle of knowledge in some way, they are more apt to share it, because it makes them look good. Couple that with the friend filter of known interests, and you have marketing gold.

So the next time you’re thinking about what to share on your business Facebook Page, blog, or social media, frame your content from the perspective of what will make your reader look good to their friends. Make it easily shareable, and then trust them to fan it out accordingly to their self selected friends. Know someone who might benefit from reading this blog post right now? Share it on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn right now. Or better yet, sign up here for my weekly 5-Minute Marketing e-newsletter. It’s insider marketing knowledge and tips aimed at entrepreneurs, small business owners and marketing managers.

This approach to content creation works not only for online campaigns, but good old fashioned real word of mouth chatter. Your customer wants to look smart, funny and connected to their friends. Just help them do their job!



What’s your purpose? Your flag?

Five years ago February 28, 2010 my hometown Vancouver wrapped up hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics with an epic men’s gold metal hockey game. Downtown became one massive street party in a sea of red and white, with people hoisting the Canadian flag proudly.

Canadians, we get a little excited about our hockey, eh?

6753076837_710f9506b3_z This 5-year anniversary of all that crazy flag waving patriotism got me thinking about flags in general, how we support what we believe in, and our purpose.

So what is your flag?

Your flag summarizes what you stand for, your ideals and why others should gather around you. Really it comes down to three simple questions:

Who do you serve?

How do you help?

Why do you do it?

I put these same questions out to my newsletter community recently, and it was amazing the comments I got back about how helpful it was for them to focus on their purpose.Here’s how I define my purpose. I’d love to hear about yours. Just respond in the comments field below and get the conversation rolling!

  • I serve entrepreneurs, marketing managers, students and anyone who wants to market their business or ideas.
  • I speak, write and consult, but ultimately teach and inspire.
  • I help you connect what you do well with an audience that cares. It’s about helping you sell your products, services or ideas.
  • I do it through teaching, consulting, speaking and writing.
  • I share, so others can be successful. That’s what gets me up in the morning.

And here’s the golden question to add at the end, for those of us who have a way of becoming distracted.

  • Is what’s on my “to do list” today advancing those goals? (And if it’s not, get it off your list!)

If you’d like to get into the “inner circle” of where I share my best stuff – marketing insights and ideas weekly, why not subscribe to my weekly e-newsletter? It comes out every Sunday morning. Loyal readers make it part of their weekend morning ritual, and a few crack it open Monday morning. Really it doesn’t matter when you get to it. I find the weekend seems to work for many entrepreneurs. It’s a time they can actually take 5 minutes to read it, and get ideas to start off their week. Link here to sign up directly.

If you’re curious about what I share in the newsletter, link below to some samples.

5 Steps to fuel word of mouth

The 4 pillars of your media empire

2015 social media trends

So wave your flag proudly this week. And always be learning!


Recycling content for media publicity and social sharing

Weather is news when it is extreme. It generates a lot of word of mouth and sharing. And the last couple weeks have been host to some pretty crazy weather in Canada. Eastern provinces have been hammered by extreme cold. The west, Vancouver specifically where I live, has seen unseasonably warm with sunny conditions. Basically we have flowers and they have snow. This bizarre weather pattern has been of great interest to the media and the public at large.

CBC_weather_contrast_FBpostSo what better time to latch onto weather as a “media hook” with your content? That’s exactly what Terry O’Reilly, the voice of CBC’s radio program and marketing podcast “Under the Influence” did with his mid February show titled, “How the Weather Affects Marketing.” While not immediately obvious, if you listen to the episode it becomes apparent that it was actually created last year. He references “This years Super Bowl” being played in an open-air stadium in New Jersey. While I’m not much of a football fan, I do know that that game was played in 2014.

Terry recycled his content.

He used the weather hook to get further media interest and generate social sharing. This was brilliant marketing to further gain exposure for his personal brand and the show.

In a world where content is king, knowing how to leverage and potentially recycle it for media publicity and social sharing gain is really important.

But before we look at three insights to help you recycle your content, check out these facts from Terry’s show and how weather relates to marketing. It’s fascinating stuff. Or better yet, tune into the episode here.

  • When temps hit 21 degrees C (70F) BBQ sales jump 200%
  • When temps hit 21C hair removal products increase 1400%
  • Sunny and 22C (72F) is the busiest day of the week for motorcycle sales
  • Car battery sales soar after 3 consecutive nights of below 0C (32F), since many batteries older than 5 years will die in those conditions.
  • Anti frizz hair care product sales increase during humid weather, and volume-producing products increase in low humidity conditions.
  • Then there’s the “1 degree” phenomena of how sales are affected by only a slight change in temperature. 1 degree hotter leads to 240,000 more units of ice cream being sold each week in the summer, 4,875 more bug zappers being sold each week, and 2% more sandals being sold each week. 1 degree colder leads to 2% more soup being sold each week and 25% more mouse traps being sold. Who knew?

Here are three things you can do to leverage your existing content:

  1. Look up blog posts that generated comments or the most social shares. Come up with 4-5 new snappy headlines that could go with the content and share the link on your social channels. Keep the headline short and post an image with the link on Twitter and Facebook. I bet you’ll generate considerable views or more followers.
  1. Take a look at topics trending on Twitter or showing up in your Facebook feed. Check #hashtags, then go back into your content as see if there is anything you could creatively attach to that topic. Then re-post the link to your content, using hashtags of course.
  1. Read the paper and watch the news. Find out what is big news. Then try to attach your content to it. If the writer gave a Twitter handle in their article (most do) be sure to tag them in your Twitter post about the topic along with a link to your old content. The added benefit of this tactic is you will be viewed as an expert in your field, and the media might seek you out in the future for quotes or appearances.

In the spirit of this week’s theme, I’ve pulled 3 links below from previously published content on my blog, refreshed with new catchy headlines. Why not check it out?

Top 10 online marketing trends for 2015 

8 Trends to track in 2013 (Hey, why not see if they actually transpired?)

How Facebook found my luggage when Air Canada couldn’t (True story! For those who have heard me speak, you’ve likely heard this one as a signature story. For everyone else, have a read – truly this is social media at work and the power of word of mouth, or should I say word of mouse and mobile)


5 steps to amplify your content marketing

This week I’m pleased to introduce a guest blogger, Ivan Serrano. Ivan is a social media, business and finance journalist living in the Bay Area of California. He has written on notable sites such as Jeff Bullas, SAP and Tech Soup. I’m thrilled to have him on board to share his knowledge, great writing style and awesome infographic. Enjoy! - Mary

86 percent of brands are utilizing creating content as part of their digital marketing strategy. Interestingly, only 38 percent say that it has been effective. So does this mean content marketing has become ineffective? Not at all. The problem now is that there is too much content available to people that they cannot possibly consume everything within their lifetime. While great content is still important to build interest and brand loyalty, it’s even more important to distribute it. After all, if no one sees what you create then you have more or less wasted your time. You need to find ways to amplify your content.

Steps of Amplification

Many companies make the mistake of thinking about content amplification after they have already created their content. The problem with this is that you won’t know what metrics to track or what audience you are trying to appeal to. This can make content amplification much harder. For a more successful strategy, you should:

  • Set goals – Before you create the first sentence of your content, you need to first ask yourself what you want to accomplish: increased revenue, brand awareness, links, increase engagement or generate leads. Depending on your goal, the audience you reach out to, content you create and metrics you track will be different.
  • Find your audience – Creating the ideal profile of your audience will make it much easier to craft content specifically for them. This, in turn, will improve audience engagement.
  • Use your owned channels – Once you’ve created your content, promote it through your social profiles, email lists and business website. Make sure you update frequently so your business stays in the forefront of your audience’s mind. In general, you should post to your social profiles at least once a day and your website two to three times a week.
  • Utilize paid social ads – The problem with owned channels is that it is only as good as the audience you already have. With many of these sites decreasing the organic reach of updates, your posts will likely get buried quickly. After all, the half-life of a tweet is only four minutes. Paid social ads help put your updates at the top of your audience’s feed. Best of all, they are highly targeted to match your exact audience profile.
  • Get earned media – You can’t really control this one, but the more your content pops up in front of people the more likely they are to share it. Eventually it might even get in front of influencers who will address it on their own site. While there’s no magic bullet to accumulating earned media, you can and should perform outreach to influencers and news outlets that might find your content interesting.

The infographic below provides additional information on amplification from tools that can help you find influencers to remarketing methods.


Ivan SerranoIvan Serrano is a social media, business and finance journalist living in the Bay Area of California. Ivan has written on sites such as Jeff Bullas, SAP and Tech Soup. When Ivan’s not typing away, he’ll most likely be off practicing photography or watching his favorite sports teams with his friends. You can follow him on Twitter: @IvanSerrano55

Solving your marketing challenge in 3 hours or less. It CAN be done!

Last week I had the pleasure of accompanying a group of students to Montreal, Quebec in Canada as their coach, to compete in the Vanier Case Challenge. This annual competition draws on the best and brightest from 33 university colleges nationwide to test their mettle in applying marketing analysis and presentation skills in a 3 hour pressure cooker simulation. They present their solution to a panel of industry experts and university professors during a 20 minute presentation and 5 minute question and answer time period.  But before getting down to work, we did a little team building, exposing some who had never skated before to frozen waterway skating in minus 20 degrees! There’s nothing quite like a field of white before you in peaceful silence, being broken only by the sound of a gliding blade across snow-covered ice.

Montreal_team_skateBack at the competition the students delivered their personal best, but in the end were not one of the 6 teams out of 33 to advance to the second round on day two. There was a lot of excellent work presented that day that didn’t make it through. The real accomplishment was to have represented their college in such a highly regarded competition in the first place. Plus, there’s always next year! Essentially those teams did in 3 hours what I do for clients over several weeks in a consulting contract. Now there’s a humbling thought!

The process that my team was coached through is one all marketing managers and entrepreneurs could benefit from. Let’s have a closer look at the steps:

  1. Situation analysis: What are the known facts? What are our internal strengths and weaknesses? What are our external opportunities and threats? What possible strategies exist to combine strengths and opportunities? Strengths and threats? Mitigate weaknesses and opportunities? Mitigate weaknesses and threats? What time frame and budget constraints are we working within?
  1. Competitive landscape: Who are our primary and secondary competitors? How are they positioned? What is the bargaining strength of our buyers and suppliers? Is there a threat of substitute or new entrants?
  1. Our positioning: What is our unique selling proposition? – what we do that our competitors don’t, that our target market cares about, that is not easily copied? What segments of the market do we serve? Who is our target market? Where are we in the product lifecycle? Are we leaders? Followers? Challengers? Or nichers?
  1. The problem or opportunity: Stated simply, what problem or opportunity are we addressing?
  1. Alternatives: Given responses to the many questions above, what are some possible directions we could take? Specific actions to solve our problem? Specific actions to realize the opportunity?
  1. Evaluate, select and justify: What criteria should we consider to evaluate alternatives? – Cost? Profit? Customer satisfaction? Market share? Resources? Values? There are many possibilities.
  1. Execution: How would our recommended plan be executed? – Who would do what? When? And how? How would it reflect in our product or service? Price? Promotion? Distribution? What specific actions would be taken each quarter? How would we allocate our budget? Finally, how would we measure success?

I know, that’s a lot of questions…

If you have a business problem or opportunity you’re facing, try going through some of these questions to approach it in a methodical way. And if you’d like some guidance in the process, or to just have someone do it for you, give me a call. Triage and a remedy can be bought!


5 Super Bowl spots that deserve acolades for creative or strategy

Super Bowl Sunday came and went with great fanfare, even if it was just for the half time show. Seriously, didn’t Katy Perry rock it? The game was filled with drama and tense moments, that can only be summed up as, “The Patriots won the game, but really Seattle lost it.” What a nail biter ending. Here on the South Coast, which is darn close to Seattle’s Pacific North West, it was generally Seahawks territory, so we’re all wandering around shaking our heads in shame this morning.

But how about those commercials, the other piece of entertainment on showcase Sunday?

In Canada, the CRTC prohibits commercials that air in the US from being shown during the Super Bowl on Canadian networks. We got our own mix, which were largely unmemorable, except for the Budweiser hockey goal light spot, which easily could have been a Tim Horton’s commercial with a logo switch at the end. It’s a bummer, but thanks to the internet, our largely outdated communications policy hasn’t yet caught up to technology, rendering the blockage irrelevant. Plus, pre-releasing ads has become part of the ad buy strategy. Paying $4.5 million for 30 seconds during Super Bowl certainly might garner attention from the 184 million estimated viewers, but it’s also the price of admission to online viewing before and after the game, media publicity coverage, word of mouth and social media chatter that goes with the whole package. So, for my Canadian friends, and those in the US who may have missed the Super Bowl, here is my pick of five that will give you something to talk about in the office this week.

Here are 5 spots that deserve creative strategy accolades:

Budweiser’s “Best Buds: Lost Puppy


Clydesdales and puppies have little to do with beer, except when they’re buddies, and your beer is a bud. Building on last years “Puppy love” this spot has already won viewers hearts in pre-release being posted and shared widely on social media and #BestBuds trending long before the big game started. It was at 17.5 million views BEFORE the game? Not bad. Expect this one to be the most talked about.

McDonalds Pay with Lovin’

McDonalds_lovinThis one hits the emotional hot button as well. McDonalds reveals during the spot that from Feb 2-14, they will randomly select customers to pay with lovin’. The spot sets up some beautiful moments of exchanges between loved ones, and will no doubt generate a build up of media coverage and online sharing approaching Valentines day. Well timed for maximum spin.

Carl JR’s All Natural Burger

CarlJRBefore I’m called out for promoting this over the top blatantly racy, raunchy and sexist ad, I think it’s important to remember the male audience that was largely watching the game, and how this ad was to stop them in their tracks. That was the intent. It is full of inappropriate innuendos to be sure, but the strategy was to cause a stir during pre-release and play directly to Carl JR’s 18-24 year old male target. They didn’t make a national buy, so it is only viewers on the west coast who saw it during the game, but by being controversial they were betting that it would attract media coverage and be viewed online nationally by their target market, which it was. This was accomplished at a fraction of the cost of a total national buy. Well played strategically but I think the creative rolls back feminism at least 40 years.

NFL’s PSA against domestic violence

NFL_911When this ad landed it left rooms silent. It’s a first for the NFL to air a Super Bowl commercial against domestic violence. This haunting spot pairs a women calling 911 pretending to order pizza, with images of a house in disarray. We never see the perpetrator or the victim, but we become engrossed in the audio. It’s a clever representation of a woman unable to leave an abusive situation. Of course the NFL had good reason to get onside with this cause after the regrettable behaviour of some of their players caused the whole league shame. This one is a chilling and emotional touch down.

Dove Men+Care “Real Strength”

Dove_Men_CareThe Dove Men+Care spot hits the mark in a subtle way for how it reinforces the role of caring Dad against the backdrop of the brute physical strength of football players, and some instances of family violence at the hand of players, that the NFL has battled this last year. Dove is getting onside in a positive way, with a message that resonated with the middle aged, middle America males who watched the Super Bowl. It was on brand and on target.

So as entrepreneurs or small business owners, without a spare $4.5 million to spend on a Super Bowl ad, what was the take away? A resounding theme was that “emotion sells.” Capturing and sharing human moments associated with your brand or business could be as easy as using your iPhone and a little creativity. Strategically leveraging publicity, media coverage, word of mouth and social sharing is another area these brands excelled in. Again, you don’t have to have a big budget to accomplish any of those. Something to think about as you go about your business this week! What was your favourite ad?