The Science of Content Planning and Super Bowl Ads

Feb 5, 2017 | Focus Fast, Aim Adeptly

Do you think content marketing is more art, or science? Certainly its visible artifacts are often artful words, images, videos and sounds. But when it comes to content planning, science and strategy are actually your most valuable allies.

And there’s no better example of this than the Super Bowl.

The world’s biggest stage

The Super Bowl is the biggest TV event of the year. It’s the ultimate game in America’s beloved sport of football. It’s also the world’s biggest advertising stage with upwards of 50 brands going all out to compete for your attention.

Before this year’s game, nine of the top ten most watched TV broadcasts in the U.S. were Super Bowl games, according to Wikipedia.

Super Bowl ads: Content planning on steroids

Did you watch Super Bowl LI this year? Did you watch it for the game, or to see the artful ads, or just to see Lady Gaga in the half-time show?

For many people, the ads can be as entertaining as what happens on the gridiron. Everyone has their favorites. And chances are the top ads this year are the talk of the water cooler this morning.

But those ads didn’t get that way by happenstance, or simply by turning teams of creative people loose with a big budget. Look behind the scenes of Super Bowl ads, and you’ll find that an incredible amount of science and strategy went into their content planning.

4 things to learn about content planning

If you’re driving content marketing for a startup or small business, you probably won’t ever run a Super Bowl ad. But you can learn a few lessons about content planning from the big brands.

Here are four takeaways that apply to content planning regardless of company size:

1. Start with strategic planning

The Super Bowl ads you see each year are the culmination of months of research and strategic planning by brand managers, ad agencies, content specialists and others.

With a 30-second spot costing around $5 million this year, big brands need to know exactly what they’re going to do – and why – before the cameras ever start rolling.

Your budget isn’t likely anywhere near theirs, but it’s every bit as dear to your bottom line.

So as you begin your content planning, ask and answer these questions:

  • What’s your unique value proposition?
  • What are you trying to accomplish?
  • With whom? What are their personas?
  • What messages will your audience respond to, and why?
  • Where can you reach them?
  • What’s your call to action?

2. Find your audience’s Super Bowl

The big brands (mostly B2C) know that they’ll tap a goldmine with the Super Bowl: over 100 million people watch it every year. And while the football game-watchers may tend to be more male than female, the overall audience is actually about 45% female – many of whom tune in primarily to watch the ads.

Talk about a target-rich environment!

What’s the equivalent of the Super Bowl for your audience?

Perhaps it’s a certain social media channel or a visual content-sharing site such as Pinterest. Or maybe there’s an event coming up that’s likely to attract people who would care about your message.

Much like the infamous bank robber Willie Sutton, your content planning should identify where to find your target audience, “because that’s where the money is.”

3. Tell stories, be human

The Super Bowl is the consummate story-telling venue. The ads you see are often human stories full of emotion, comedy or drama.

Super Bowl ads are entertainment with a message – and your content should be, too.

That doesn’t mean your content should always be lightweight, especially if you’re a B2B business. But B2B or B2C, your prospects are real people, and are more likely to respond to your message if it’s presented in a way that’s human. A story, examples, real life issues and personal commentary go a long way to make that happen.

In your content planning, pay attention to your personas’ pain points, needs and wants – what they care about. Think, too, about your content charisma – the characteristics that will draw people in.

That will guide your content’s story and make it more human.

4. Plan a multi-channel campaign

While TV-based Super Bowl ads are clearly a centerpiece, advertisers rarely stop there. The ad itself is usually just one part of a much larger campaign.

That campaign can include social media posts, ad teasers, cross-media promotion and even in-person events, all part of a plan to create “buzz” on as many channels as possible.

Your content planning should seek the same effect.

Look beyond your primary delivery strategy to other channels and other formats. Convert a blog post to a slideshow or an infographic, or both. Use hash tags to align your message with trending topics.

Once you decide to invest in a central piece of content, multiply its effect by using as many other channels as possible.

Make content planning your game

Content planning isn’t an art. It’s equal parts science and strategy.

Before Super Bowl LII (in Minnesota!) make a commitment to follow the science and strategy of Super Bowl advertisers.

Start with strategic planning.

Find the Super Bowl for your audience.

Tell stories and make your content human.

Plan a multi-channel campaign.

It’s a winning approach, no matter how big you are.

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