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$4.5 million. That’s the record-breaking, going rate at NBC for a 30-second spot in this year’s Super Bowl, according to AdWeek. And brands are doing everything they can think of to squeeze the most value out their hefty investments.

From Doritos’ “Crash the Super Bowl” campaign, which will run two customer-created ads during the Feb. 1 game, to the multi-social media war room and event strategy of Bud Light, B2B marketers can learn a lot from Super Bowl advertisers — including the fact "puppies never fail."

4 Lessons from Super Bowl Advertisers

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To shed some light on some of these Super Bowl advertising trends and lessons learned, CMSWire talked with Allen Adamson, Chairman, North America at Landor Associates – a global strategic branding and design firm – and author of three books about successful branding.

 1. Puppies Never Fail

According to USA TODAY, puppies have consistently won the media organization’s Super Bowl Ad Meter competition, and this year, two of the Super Bowl’s biggest advertisers – Anheuser-Busch and GoDaddy – will take advantage of that puppy power with their game spots.

However, Adamson didn’t suggest that B2B marketers give puppies a starring role in their corporate videos. In fact, he specifically noted that many tactics used by Super Bowl advertisers, such as puppies and comedy, usually don’t work for B2B communications.

What this means for B2B marketers: So, why care about puppies? Two words: emotional branding. Identified by Forrester as “the most important driver of customer loyalty” when it comes to customer experience, making connections with customers based on emotion is where it’s at in 2015.

And storytelling is a way to achieve that connection.

"We've turned to animals in our ads because they help universalize our storytelling," said Brian Perkins, vice president of Budweiser in a USA TODAY article. "To us, it's less about puppies specifically, and more about how the Budweiser Clydesdales and their friend, the puppy, help us tell a story around the quality of our beer."

Need some emotional inspiration? Take a look at "Puppy Love," last year’s Super Bowl Ad Meter competition winner from Anheuser-Busch.

2. Go Beyond the 30-Second Spot

“The ad a company runs during the Super Bowl is a piece of a story, but it’s no longer the whole story,” said Adamson. “It’s what you do before and after the game to continue that conversation that counts – getting people engaged, seeding an idea that lives beyond the 30 seconds on a Sunday afternoon.”

For example, to get the most mileage from this year’s half-time sponsorship, PepsiCo and its brands are running various competitions leading up to the game.

Students from The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) are currently competing to see who can come up with the tastiest Super Bowl recipe using PepsiCo products in the company’s Game Day Grub Match.” Dishes will be judged by food celebrities, and winners announced during the Taste of the NFL's annual Party with a Purpose.

Website development company Wix, which debuts its first Super Bowl ad this year, has partnered with former NFL stars to develop the #ItsThatEasy campaign aimed at small business owners, in which it will run content leading up to game day, as well as after its ad runs.

Among posts on website navigation tips and web design enhancements, the Wix blog currently features titles such as 10 Fun Super Bowl Facts to Win Over Your Game Day Party, and 10 Artists We’ll Never See on Super Bowl Halftime Show

What this means for B2B marketers: Adamson suggested that, rather than thinking about customer interactions as 30-second spots, businesses need to learn how to tell a story over a greater period of time, making sure to involve their customers in the process.

“Getting a conversation going is a more powerful way to build a company or a brand than interrupting people and telling them something about the company that they may or may not care about,” he said.

3. Be Responsive, Agile and Quick

“Customers expect companies to be real, responsive, agile and quick,” noted Adamson. “Part of what makes many consumer companies successful marketers is that they’re becoming more agile in listening to the conversations in the market and jumping in when relevant.”

Super Bowl advertisers are once again gearing up for the social media frenzy by setting up social media war rooms that will allow them to be a part of the game day conversation in real-time, in an effort to get consumers to pay attention to their brands and their high-dollar ads.

From Tweeting great plays, to commenting on half-time show highlights and other game events, brands will be building buzz by creating real-time content targeting Millennials.

“Millennials are one of the most sought after consumer bases, but marketing gimmicks will not win over this group of shoppers,” stated Adamson. “Millennials will only respond to celebrity spokespersons, humorous commercials or other Super Bowl ad tactics if they remain true to the brand’s identity and core message.”

What this means for B2B marketers: “Much of B2B is driven by word of mouth,” said Adamson. “In a world where word of mouth drives revenue, figuring out how to get stories in the marketplace that people want to share, actively share and feel enthusiastic about sharing is key.”

However, because most of the products and services offered by B2B companies are complex, he added, the value “can’t be communicated through puppies and kids rolling in the grass, or a jingle.”

“If the currency of social media is the quick Tweet or the quick update, that is not a vehicle that lends itself to complicated stories,” said Adamson. “Companies need to boil down their message to a simple, sticky story.”

4. Throw Away the Formulas

“The winners who break through in the Super Bowl don’t follow a formula, and they typically try something new for the first time,” said Adamson.

This demonstrates how hard it is to get attention, and how hard you have to work to try something different, he continued.

What this means to B2B marketers: “B2B marketers have a very conservative approach to communication,” said Adamson. “Taking creative risks is hard for big companies to do in corporate B2B communications.”

However, to break through all of the noise, Adamson advised that B2B marketers follow the lead of Super Bowl advertisers and look for new ways to connect with their customers.

And if all else fails, call in the puppies.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic LicenseTitle image by  Loren Sztajer