How Do Super Bowl Ads Score a Lasting Impression with Consumers?

Ads featuring humor, light hearted stories and funny people drive brand affinity

People tune into the Super Bowl to be entertained, and the commercials that drive brand affinity and leave a lasting impression are fun to watch. Historically, the ads that go viral rely on humor, light hearted stories, funny people and catchy jingles.

Getting humor right humanizes brands, leaves a lasting impression and creates a stronger emotional connection with consumers — which is essential to get a better return on investment (ROI) for any advertising. However, the use of humor in advertising has been toned down significantly since the 2008 Great Recession according to Kantar.

It isn’t easy to create an ad that is perceived to be funny by everybody. The secret behind most great ads is concept testing with a diverse consumer audience. When brands use qualitative market research to test ads, they gain consumer insights to cast the right actors, fine tune scripts and develop soundtracks that endure beyond a game day debut.

One of the best examples of an impactful Super Bowl ad is the Snicker’s classic, “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” (RIP Betty White). This campaign helped catapult Snickers from seventh place to the number one chocolate brand in America according to Ad Age; and a decade after the ad aired, the USA Today Ad Meter consumer panel named the Mars Wrigley gem the best Super Bowl ad created in the past 25 years.

Consumer insights played a major role in selecting the cast for this Super Bowl classic. Aretha Franklin was the original lead, but a consumer panel thought comedians Betty White and Abe Vigoda were funnier. The shock value of the beloved octogenarians being tackled on a muddy football field stole the show.

Super Bowl LVI followed a similar playbook to create entertaining ads, and gave consumers the perfect remedy for pandemic-fatigue — humor. Brands went all out, lining up the directors and stars from America’s favorite comedies, creating a lineup that looked more like movie trailers than commercials.

Five brands fans loved most are:

  1. Flamin’ Hot Doritos and Cheetos
  2. Lays Potato Chips
  3. Amazon Alexa
  4. General Motors
  5. Walmart, Inc.

Frito-Lay Creates Flamin’ Hot Classic with Megan Thee Stallion and Charlie Puth

The first-ever Flamin’ Hot Super Bowl spot features both Doritos and Cheetos brands, and the voices of pop culture stars Megan Thee Stallion and Charlie Puth. She transforms into a fiery songbird and is joined by an unlikely cast of animal characters, including a beatboxing fox voiced by Puth, singing to the tune of the epic ’80s anthem “Push It” from Salt-N-Pepa.

Lays Taps into the Chemistry Between Friends to Share a Relatable Nightmare

Just about everybody has encountered a bridezilla. Who could share this relatable nightmare better than real-life pals and notorious pranksters, Paul Rudd and Seth Rogan? What starts out as a trip down memory lane between a groom and his best man, takes a twisted turn and culminates with Rogan meeting and marrying a zombie bride.

Amazon Acknowledges Privacy Fears to Win Trust with Humor

Amazon’s Super Bowl LVI ad acknowledges consumers’ concerns about privacy, and our fears about home devices listening to everything we say.  Black Widow star Scarlett Johansson and her husband Colin Jost , host of SNL Weekend Update, imagine how convenient it would be if Alexa could read their minds – and decide it’s not such a great idea.

General Motors Reunites the Groovy “Austin Powers” Cast

Vintage is new again, and General Motors tapped into the star power of the cast of the 90’s spy comedy, with Rob Lowe starring as Young Number Two—laughing maniacally alongside Mike Myers’ Dr. Evil, Seth Green’s Scott Evil and Mindy Sterling’s Frau Farbissina. (Tip: Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery is streaming on HBO Max)

Kevin Hart Wins America’s Heart with His Sense of Humor

It’s hard to believe 59-year-old Walmart, Inc. is a Super Bowl 56 newcomer. But they did it right. Their debut commercial starring comedian and entrepreneur Kevin Hart is going viral. His  laugh-out-loud performance showcases the Sam’s Club VIP Scan & Go app, demonstrating how marketing messages do ring true with the right messenger. Over half of consumers say they tune into the Super Bowl just to watch the commercials according to Kantar, and the sheer size of the audience can make Super Bowl ads 20 times more effective at driving a brand perception. Brands that rely on consumer insights stay a step ahead of the competition, and can also drive up their return on investment.

Want to learn more about qualitative market research, or get more in depth information about the advantages and limitations of consumer insights? Get in touch with our team of researchers and learn more about Insights in Marketing through our case studies, infographics, and blogs!