On Monday you heard from some fellow AKHIAN’s on all things Super Bowl, including some of their favorite commercials. Sure, we all have the ones that drew us in … or completely turned us off. From the sad and the adorable tug-at-your-heart-strings spots to the comical and the “What the heck did I just watch???” ones, you’ll see just about everything when the clock stops in the football game.

But while we can all appreciate certain elements of these commercials as consumers, one must ask—how well did the marketers behind them really do their jobs? Lukas Treu and I attended the Cleveland AMA’s Super Bowl Ad Review luncheon to learn just that—and upon regrouping, we realized we had some interesting takeaways. As we progressed through a bracket of 16 Super Bowl ads to determine the “best” ad from a marketing standpoint, we were reminded that when we critique ads as marketers (and not just consumers), we quickly find that ads that appeared great on the surface may have ultimately missed the mark. Here are a few examples:

  • Budweiser’s cute little puppy commercial resonated more with women than men and was most popular with people over 65. While we all love a cute puppy (seriously, dogs and horses are my fave), let’s take a minute to think about Budweiser’s key demographic. I don’t think my grandmother will be cracking open a cold one anytime soon.
  • Mercedes’ turtle and the hare race was an odd one in my mind. But the most interesting part? It ranked highest among consumers under 21, and those with household incomes of less than $25,000. The group it resonated the least with? Households with an income of over $150,000. Um, isn’t that your audience Mercedes?  Who exactly were you trying to reach?
  • Snickers tends to skew to a younger demographic with its sometimes snarky “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” campaign. So why exactly did they choose to use two references from the ‘60s and ‘70s? I love a good Snickers bar from time to time, but I had NO idea what was going on in their commercial … and I can’t imagine I was the only young person feeling that way
  • Jeep’s commercial ranked highest with females, and those above the age of 65. This brand is known for being an affordable, American-focused company, and it tends to target ads toward a younger demographic. With that in mind, it wasn’t clear that taking an international travel angle was in line with brand expectations.

As Ben pointed out earlier this week, it’s important for brands to be genuine. It’s also important for them to ensure that their messaging is in line with their brand positioning when advertising on the world’s biggest stage. Yes, making a commercial funny or touching can have a positive short-term impact, but shouldn’t the goal be to create long-term positive perceptions and associations with a brand? It’s something advertisers should think about more closely moving forward.

On that note, here are our top five recommendations on how companies (and their advertising teams) can make the most impact with their Super Bowl commercials:

  1. Know your brand.  Recognize your reputation and embrace that for which you’re known. People are often put off by advertising that goes away from what they expect from a company—it creates dissonance.

o   Who Did It Right: Doritos’ “middle seat” spot. Everyone expects a simple, funny commercial that resonates with a younger audience that loves the brand, and that’s exactly what Doritos did.

  1. Know your target audience. Understand what resonates with your audience, keeping in mind demographics and what they place the most importance on. As we showed above, just because you have a cute or funny ad doesn’t mean it’s going to reach the right consumers.

o   Who Did It Right: Always. I don’t think one mother in any room across the U.S. didn’t stop to watch. Or fathers with daughters, for that matter. According to the Ad Meter, this commercial ranked highest with females aged 35–49 … right on point with Always’ demographic.

  1. Have goals. Want to make people laugh or cry? That’s fine, go for it. But if you want to see some ROI—whether it be increased foot traffic, sales or brand awareness—then you need to quantify these items and tie elements into your commercial to help reach these goals.

o   Who Did It Right: Lexus’ Super Bowl ad boosted Kelley Blue Book searches for its car by 1,800%. When you’re spending $4.5 million on a 30-second spot, you’re going to want to see some lasting results for your company.

  1. Think longevity. Sure, everyone loves the publicity that Super Bowl commercials receive before, during and for a few days after the game. But what happens after that? Keep in mind that this is a large investment, and you’re going to want to continue using and repurposing the campaign to help strengthen brand awareness and justify the cost.

o   Who Did It Right: Coca-Cola.People expect a feel-good, “make the world a better place” ad, and that’s exactly what they brought. Not only that, but the company added legs to the campaign by providing a social interaction element and tracking the positivity vs. negativity of posts on social media. The microsite and social media aspects help add longevity vs. simply airing one commercial.

  1. Get creative with budget. Don’t have millions of dollars (plus production costs) to be part of the Super Bowl? Sometimes, all you need is a little creativity to still get publicity. Look into other elements, such as social media campaigns or piggybacking off of another brand’s commercial.

o   Who Did It Right: Volvo. Their social media interception campaign was brilliant. Every time a car commercial came on, the brand encouraged viewers to nominate someone who deserved to win a car on Twitter. The result? A lot of publicity for Volvo and a lot of consumers missing competitive car commercials because they were too busy tweeting at the brand.

Super Bowl commercials may change from year to year, but you can bet they’ll remain a prominent culture force for years to come. The next time you watch one, go beyond what most people do and think about it as a marketer. Did it evoke a fleeting emotion, or did it create lasting brand attachment? The latter is more challenging to do, but can be far more rewarding. You may be surprised what conclusions you reach. We’d love to hear about them!

Teresa DeJohn is Account Executive at AKHIA. Content Architect Lukas Treu contributed to this post.