Between the tackles and touchdowns of Super Bowl XLVIII, about 35 brands went head to head in a competition for consumer attention by airing highly anticipated commercials at $130,000 per second. Which brands won? It’s hard to tell: Bets were in well before Sunday, play-by-plays have been highlighted, trends analyzed, and commentators are still discussing them.
The truth is that the games have just begun. For consumers, the Super Bowl ad spectacle is part of the “discovery” phase — the first of four stages constituting Forrester’s customer life cycle — as commercials educate markets about a new product or momentarily make an impression on individuals. The resulting waves of social chatter now rippling across the Web amplify each brand’s capacity to be noticed.
Every few years we marketers think we have digital figured out. First it was websites, then it was about eBusiness strategy, then came social, and more recently, we're all about mobile. These are all good things, to be sure, but conquering any one of these – or all of them together – still misses the larger point: Digital disruption is bigger than any of them on their own, and it is nowhere near finished turning the marketing and advertising world upside down.
Consider the Super Bowl. Every year the big game captures more eyeballs and, along with them, more ad dollars. Some point to continued TV spend as evidence that people are in denial about the role of digital, as Adobe did with its clever spoof on Super Bowl ads this year. But note that some of the most prominent ads in Super Bowl 2013 encouraged an expressly digital component – from Budweiser's name-the-pony campaign to Oreo's crowd-pleasing Cream or Cookie campaign, tagged with "Choose your side on Instagram @OREO." The most elaborate of these was the Coke Chase, a Twitter-based real-time voting campaign that earned @cocacola nearly a thousand more Twitter followers on game day, according to Twittercounter.com.
These are worthy – and relatively cheap – forays into making TV ads more, rather than less, relevant in a digitally disruptive era. But these all miss the broader point about the power of digital. Digital won't just disrupt the way brands communicate with consumers, it will afford those brands the chance to build a direct digital relationship with those consumers. If they don't blow it, standing idle while someone else grabs that relationship first.