Yesterday, Superbowl XLVIII was the next mile marker in marketing. (If you saw the game, you know that the actual football wasn't nearly as interesting.) Last year, Oreo's "dunk in the dark" tweet was declared the launch of real-time marketing as a social media marketing trend. Yesterday, I declare, was its death.
Ok, so that's a dramatic overstatement. Real-time marketing brought us a few fun stunts on Twitter like Newcastle re-imagining the Superbowl ads with the hashtag #IfWeMadeIt and DiGiorno's stinging tweet using the hashtag #DiGiorNOYOUDIDNT.
— Newcastle Brown Ale (@Newcastle) February 3, 2014
Heck, my favorites from yesterday weren't from brands at all. They were Hilary Clinton's zinger against FOX and (faux) @theLadyGrantham from Downton Abbey live-tweeting the game as if it were a Quidditch match. (A Harry Potter reference for those of you who didn't get that.) I chuckled out loud and shared both with my party cohorts.
I go away for five minutes and Ravenclaw has the Quaffle again. #SuperBowl
— The Dowager Countess (@theLadyGrantham) February 3, 2014
But, for the most part, what we experienced yesterday was a groan-worthy parade of tweets that tried way too hard. For a year, we've defined real-time marketing as saying something clever and relevant to the moment using the trending hashtag for a live event. Real-time marketing, per Gary Vaynerchuck at South by Southwest's pop-up panel with Oreo in 2013, was like becoming that cool guy in the room that always says something funny at exactly the right moment. And you want to be friends with that guy, maybe even buy what he buys.
This year's social media stream from brands was a little like going to an awkward networking event where largely un-funny people tried to say clever things, like their cool pal Oreo. (Important note: Oreo actually sat out this year, signing off Twitter before the game even started. Smart, in my opinion, as it was unlikely that they'd strike gold two years in a row.) Plus, in 2013, marketers got wise to the fact that it's mostly marketers ourselves that are interacting and scoring this stuff as a 'hit' or a 'miss.'
Even worse this year was a phenomenon being called "brand-on-brand crime." Brands that hijack another brand's hard-planned social media plot for the Superbowl. See: Coors and JC Penney, Kohls & JC Penney…
.@JCPenney We know football goes great with Coors Light, but please tweet responsibly.
— Coors Light (@CoorsLight) February 3, 2014
— Kohl's (@Kohls) February 3, 2014
There were a few comments (again, probably us marketers) reminding all of us that even a zinger — when it draws engagement from big fellow brands — can be seen as a win for exposure. After all, does anyone know where to buy a pair of Go Team USA gloves today? Yep: JC Penney.
The best thing to happen this year, though, is the brand-on-brand conversation. Where as not every brand social media manager is a comedian, almost all of us have been steeped in the power of a conversation in social media. Check out Party City making waves, not by dissing fellow brands or trying to make wise cracks about the game, but by going out to find conversations to be a part of. And when you're the expert on throwing parties, the opportunities abound. They got party "invites" from brands like Tide and White Castle… not a bad way to grow a few new followers.
.@PartyCity What's your return policy on the orange & blue confetti?
— White Castle (@WhiteCastle) February 3, 2014
Disclaimer: Not even Party City nailed it all night. There is some definite cheese in that feed. But there is a good lesson in there for us, too…
So what's the lesson from Superbowl XLVIII? Conversations still trump cleverness. Clever is actually a pretty tough target to hit. Having conversations, even with fellow brands, can be a lot more natural, especially when so many brands are trying to find a genuine way to play a part in the day's social chatter.
And for good measure, a reminder to stop trying so hard to do that Oreo thing from Superbowl XLVII. The harder you try to be funny, the harder it can flop.