posted February 12, 2018

What #SuperBowl Social Listening Tells Us About Consumers

Jack Chase

This year’s Super Bowl drove the most conversation of any event in the United States excluding the Presidential Election. Even a dream team of JT, Foles, Brady, Belichick, and Bud Knight couldn’t compete with Hillary and Trump. However, the Super Bowl drove roughly as many posts (19M+) as the Grammy’s (12M+) and Golden Globes (7M+) combined, even with Oprah’s inspiring #TimesUp speech.

Social listening allows us to analyze these event’s conversations to give business leaders insight into what characteristics of pop culture events, ad campaigns, and brands drive the most conversation across digital*. So, what does #SuperBowl social listening tell us about consumers?

Well, a few things.

Shock value drives conversation and increases invested interest.

Let’s start by making a comparison of Super Bowl 52 and Super Bowl 51. This year, volume of conversation was 14% less than last year’s shocking comeback victory by the Patriots. What does that tell us about consumers? Shock value drives conversation in the form of word of mouth and word of keyboard; just ask Robb Stark and his good buddy Walder Frey. Westeros was in a tizzy after Robb blew a 28-3 lead in the war of five kings.

For the record, I’d rather watch the Red Wedding ten times than watch my Falcons blow that lead lead even once, but I sure did talk about both events with my social network. In a roundabout way, the two shocking events made me more invested in both the NFL and Game of Thrones.

Consumers speculate intent of brands taking a stance on social issues.

From a marketer’s perspective, today’s average consumer is more interested in social issues than pre 2013. Marketers are constantly trying to incorporate consumer interests to drive deeper relationships between brands and their consumers. However, brands that attempted to latch onto a social issue during Super Bowl LII took heat from consumers on social media.

RAM Trucks over indexed in negative sentiment (70% negative) as a result of using the audio of a Martin Luther King Jr. sermon to attempt to sell trucks.

T-Mobile had the most success addressing a social issue with their #LittleOnes Super Bowl ad by showcasing babies of different ethnicities, but the brand still had 46% negative posts driving its brand conversation compared to the Super Bowl brand average 30% negative sentiment.

Brands are better off demonstrating the positive impact their product or service can bring to those in need in a more practical way. Verizon demonstrated this with their Answering the Call ad which articulated their role in connecting those in need with emergency professionals. As a result, a phone company which typically sees a skew towards negative conversation (47%) about poor reception (no pun intended) increased its positive share of conversation all the way to 70%.

Humor in ads is most effective in driving positive consumer conversation.

Human beings love laughing, making others laugh, but most importantly, laughing with others. It makes us feel a sense of acceptance and inclusion. If you can position your brand as a vehicle for laughter → acceptance & inclusion, you’re going to drive a relationship between your brand and consumers: no matter how shallow your humor may be. Dilly Dilly!

Amazon, a brand widely viewed as a scary monopoly closing in to eliminate business as we know it added a new element to its brand with their ad Alexa Loses Her Voice. The brand drove the most conversation of any brand that ran a super bowl ad, yet its brand conversation actually decreased in volume from the days leading up to the big game. This was a result of consumers and media taking a break from their monopolization narrative to partake in a hearty chuckle. That is exactly what the brand needed – a distraction just long enough to give them time to buy all our businesses and replace us with machines.  

Tide, a brand in the middle of an internet challenge responsible for the deaths of children, was able to take attention away from its PR nightmare and focus on a series of humorous ads. The subtle shock of a stereotypical corny advertisement turning into a snarky, humorous ad landed in a big way with consumers. Tide diminished its 50% negative sentiment to 39% while increasing its total volume of conversation 48% after its campaign debuted.

Social Listening is so valuable because you can ask your data the same types of questions you would a focus group, all the while measuring ROI of your campaign’s word of keyboard. Not to mention, brands can look at conversations about competitors or any other brand for that matter.

The biggest pop culture event in the US excluding the presidential election had a lot of consumers watching, talking, and hinting at the way they want brands to engage them. Were you listening?


*”Digital” for the purposes of social listening is defined here as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Blogs, Forums, Reddit, Tumblr, Reviews from Consumer Sites, News, YouTube and Google Plus.