B2B Super Bowl ads: Keanu Reeves is not your strategy guy
by Patrick McAuley, President and Chief Strategy Officer
This year’s Super Bowl mirrored every other in one respect – very few B2B brands invested in an ad for the big game. Squarespace was one of only two or three to buy a $5.5 million 30-second spot to reach B2B buyers.
Why would this one B2B brand commit such resources to this one tactic? Might the strategy behind the bold move be worth considering for your B2B brand?
Let’s take a look at the Squarespace ad, assess its effectiveness, and weigh it against other ways they might have spent their Super Bowl ad budget.
In the ad that aired Sunday, actor Keanu Reeves – of “Point Break,” “The Matrix” and “John Wick” fame – “surfs” a motorcycle down a thankfully deserted road, while mumbling the lyrics to a 35-year-old song. The key line is “The power to do anything you can imagine is within you.”
It’s engaging enough in its oddball tone and surprise ending. As with most good B2B marketing these days, the 30-second spot is but a piece of an expanded, multi-format campaign. Only through these other pieces – longer-form video, landing pages, case study, etc. – is it apparent that the target is entrepreneurs who might need a quick and easy way to build a website.
Now, I’ll assume Squarespace backed up its multimillion-dollar outlay with some solid buyer research. First, it must have shown that entrepreneurs generally attend Super Bowl parties where all the Lanvin sneakers padding across layered Kilim rugs make so little noise that Reeves’s mumbling comes across loud and clear. This was not the case at my neighbor’s party.
But more importantly, the research must have found that lone wolf entrepreneurs identify with “vision statements” that ring as hollow as the one for Reeves’s motorcycle brand startup:
“When passion meets inspiration, an obsession is born. Our passion for motorcycles has inspired a unique blend of design and performance.”
This type of claptrap certainly looks nice designed into Reeves’s Arch Motorcycles brand website he (supposedly) developed with Squarespace’s technology.
So, all in all, with the appeal to grand visions and quick-and-easy site development, Squarespace gets the job done here. The brand’s splashy broadcast strategy seems to be paying off. This ad is its fifth consecutive Super Bowl appearance.
Last year, the company’s revenues increased 50 percent to $300 million, according to Bloomberg. Rounding the ad’s cost up to $7 million to cover production, the investment is about 2.5 percent of revenue. That’s not entirely crazy, especially given that the efforts are leading droves of entrepreneurs to use Squarespace to build and maintain sites.
But while Squarespace wins among this year’s B2B Super Bowl ads, many of the messages embedded in this campaign are dangerous to the B2B marketing community at large.
Do you really want to build your company’s website on the fly, without foresight, no matter how quickly and easily it can be done these days? In a related tutorial video, Reeves designs his in one night, sitting around a campfire. “It’s beautiful,” he says, a tear rolling down his cheek.
Beautiful is not a strategy. Your website should not be an electronic brochure. Before your content writer types the first word and your designer chooses the first photo, you need to map out exactly how you’ll present your brand’s differentiated value and how you’ll drive your best prospects to action.
Here’s the second reason not to put Keanu Reeves in charge of your marketing: “Once you’re done and happy,” he mumbles of his finished website, “the world will welcome your creation with open arms.”
Oh boy. Nobody will care until you work hard to, first, let your target prospects know you’re there and, second, tell them why they should care. To be fair, Reeves tosses his laptop into the campfire at the end of the tutorial in a probable acknowledgement of his wasteful, non-strategic efforts.
I’ve used Squarespace to make temporary websites, and I’m a fan. Advertising on the Super Bowl is better than doing nothing, as it will build awareness and a certain understanding of the product.
But, of course, smart business people consider opportunity costs. Seven million dollars could fund a decade’s worth of smart, effective brand building and lead generation.
Find some thought starters about customer journey marketing here.