Can Budweiser’s Puppy Commercials Teach Other Brands New Tricks?

Why Bud­weis­er releas­es Super Bowl ads that make peo­ple cry.

Lisa Lacy By Lisa Lacy. Join the discussion » 0 comments

Budweiser’s streak of Super Bowl ad dom­i­nance is thanks in large part to a pup­py that makes Amer­i­can con­sumers verklempt. And experts say mar­keters look­ing to emu­late the brand’s adver­tis­ing suc­cess should devel­op con­tent with relat­able themes and emo­tion­al trig­gers. And, like Bud­weis­er, this con­tent doesn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly need an explic­it sales mes­sage as long as that con­tent is part of a longer play with oth­er mar­ket­ing ele­ments that work in uni­son.

Bud­weis­er clear­ly had anoth­er big hit this year with its Lost Dog spot, even though it was arguably a repack­aged ver­sion of its 2014 Super Bowl com­mer­cial. And, lucky for Bud­weis­er, con­sumers real­ly didn’t seem to care that they’d seen the dog + horse + per­il = viral video gold for­mu­la before and were eager to wel­come the brand’s pup­py back into their TVs and browsers again.

In fact, the Lost Dog spot was #1 in USA Today’s Ad Meter rank­ings of Super Bowl ads over­all with an aver­age rat­ing of 8.1 out of 10. And, to date, the spot has 24.5 mil­lion views on YouTube.

What’s more, per Viral Video Chart, Lost Dog is the #1 video in the last week and also has 2.3 mil­lion Face­book shares.

In addi­tion, YouTube com­ments like, “Just anoth­er rea­son to love Budweiser…this makes me teary-eyed and hap­py every time I see it,” and, “BEST COMMERCIAL EVER <3,” indi­cate con­sumers yet again feel an emo­tion­al con­nec­tion to the spot.

Even Inter­net domain reg­is­trar and web host­ing com­pa­ny GoDad­dy learned not to tan­gle with Budweiser’s pup­py. GoDad­dy pulled a Super Bowl spot pri­or to game day due to adverse reac­tion to it pok­ing fun of the beer brand’s 2014 hit.

And it’s not even clear that these dog lovers are beer drinkers. But, again, it doesn’t seem to mat­ter.

So why does Bud­weis­er go to the trou­ble of mak­ing con­sumers cry – even when that includes con­sumers who may nev­er pur­chase its prod­uct – and what can oth­er brands glean from this?

Greg Jar­boe, pres­i­dent of inter­net mar­ket­ing ser­vices firm SEO-PR, points out that Bud­weis­er ran two addi­tion­al spots dur­ing the game, Brewed the Hard Way and Real Life Pac­Man #Upfor­What­ev­er.

Most oth­er adver­tis­ers ran one. So, Bud­weis­er ‘flood­ed the zone,’ as they say in foot­ball,” Jar­boe said.

In addi­tion, the 2015 pup­py spot builds on a sto­ry start­ed two years ago with Broth­er­hood and con­tin­ued last year with Pup­py Love, he said.

If Hol­ly­wood has taught us any­thing, when you have a sto­ry and char­ac­ters that peo­ple love, it’s a pret­ty safe bet to cre­ate a sequel,” Jar­boe said.

And it’s those emo­tions that are a key part of the spots’ suc­cess. But if oth­er brands are look­ing to fol­low Budweiser’s lead and dri­ve video shar­ing of their own, they should make sure to hit what­ev­er emo­tion­al trig­gers they choose hard, Jar­boe says.

The for­mu­la for suc­cess also includes launch­ing the ad before the game to build dig­i­tal buzz and lay­er­ing on social moti­va­tions. And Budweiser’s top-per­form­ing Super Bowl ads from the last three years have done all of these things.

So Bud­weis­er has fig­ured out the for­mu­la for suc­cess and is repeat­ing it year after year,” Jar­boe said.

Ian Chee, chief strat­e­gy offi­cer at dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing agency MRY, said that con­text is more impor­tant today than ever. And in the case of the Super Bowl when con­sumers are watch­ing the game with fam­i­ly and friends “it’s a light­heart­ed affair where peo­ple gath­er, joke and drink. In this con­text, ideas that will bring a smile to your face or a swath of nos­tal­gia work. It opens up the con­ver­sa­tion in the room and this often trans­lates to the con­ver­sa­tions online as well,” he said.

In addi­tion, Chee said themes like pup­pies and fam­i­ly bonds are ones many Amer­i­cans can relate to.

Bud­weis­er pulled on these strings to build res­o­nance with their audi­ence and it’s worked,” he said. “It’s true that it’ll be dif­fi­cult to track the imme­di­ate sales impact, but brands, smart big brands, under­stand they are play­ing a long game. Last­ing brands are built over years, and a good invest­ment of love for the brand can help build that long-term res­o­nance.”

Dave Sur­gan, asso­ciate direc­tor of mobile and social plat­forms at ad agency R/GA, agrees that brands have a deci­sion to make when it comes to an event like the Super Bowl and the impact they want to make.

Across all medi­ums and tech­nolo­gies, adding pup­pies, kit­tens or semi-naked peo­ple will get you atten­tion,” Sur­gan said. “Does this always help you rein­force a mes­sage that adds val­ue to your prod­uct? Prob­a­bly not. Does it grab some atten­tion for a moment? Almost always, yes. Brands need to fig­ure out if they are work­ing for quick atten­tion grabs for every cam­paign or some­thing that endures.”

How­ev­er, Chee also notes a brand’s entire mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy is not usu­al­ly a sin­gle ad. Rather, it includes a lot of dif­fer­ent ele­ments that work togeth­er to achieve larg­er goals.

In oth­er words, one asset doesn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly need to do every­thing.

The best mar­ket­ing usu­al­ly does one thing very well and then there’s a set of tools that does oth­er things like social engage­ment,” Chee said.

In a well-orches­trat­ed cam­paign, these ele­ments work togeth­er, he said.

Fur­ther, Bud­weis­er had the lux­u­ry of two Super Bowl spots – one that pulled at con­sumers’ heart­strings and one that was prod­uct-ori­ent­ed.

One con­nects on the emo­tion­al lev­el and the oth­er is [about the prod­uct],” Chee said. “And, in fact, it was quite smart to do both.”

Bot­tom line: if noth­ing else, to play off of core human themes like the desire to be loved, Chee said.

It’s like the whole idea of roman­tic come­dies. When you go to watch, you’re not watch­ing for the twist at the end when they don’t fall in love – you know these things are going to hap­pen,” Chee said. “Those things fol­low a cer­tain rhythm and there are new ways to tell it and nuances that make it bet­ter or worse, but, at its core, it plays off of sim­i­lar themes and, with the Super Bowl, it’s sim­i­lar themes, but exe­cut­ed well and at a high­er bud­get.”

What else do you think brands can learn from Bud­weis­er’s pup­py?

Lisa Lacy

Written by Lisa Lacy

Lisa is a senior features writer for Inked. She also previously covered digital marketing for Incisive Media. Her background includes editorial positions at Dow Jones, the Financial Times, the Huffington Post, AOL, Amazon, Hearst, Martha Stewart Living and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

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