Super Bowl Commercial Lists: What They Do For Brands and Audiences

The internet Loves Lists
Britney Spears Super Bowl Pepsi Joy
Britney Spears, on the set of her memorable Pepsi nnemmercial (2001). Source: Billboard, Courtesy of Pepsi

Every year around the Super Bowl a sea of list-oriented articles explode.

We see lists like these pop up: The ‘Top’ or ‘Best’ or ‘Most [insert adjective]‘ Super Bowl Commercial(s) of All-Time/Year/Decade, etc. The main reason these lists pop-up (seemingly everywhere) is part commercial and part cultural. So why does it still matter to make a list when everyone has a different favorite Super Bowl commercial?

Brands and companies want to stay in the “conversation” so they create content around the topic of conversation (during this time it’s the Super Bowl). Lists are easy fast reads, and the best ones are fun and creative. Not only that, lists make up 53% of the top performing blog posts on social and 30% of the top 25 shared content on social media (Source: Business2Community).

It’s safe to say, the internet loves lists.

So the main commercial motivation for a brand or company to do a list would be with the hope that it goes viral and they get a boost in engagement, followers, and exposure.

The internet Loves Lists
Source: Buzzfeed

From the consumer’s point of view, lists give us cultural feedback on what we already know and what we don’t know.

Lists help us organize our thoughts and feelings on a subject.

Finding meaning and understanding is a part of the human experience, and Super Bowl commercials are a big part of the American experience. Lists also help us understand and find meaning inherently by their format.

Although I don’t really follow football or understand the rules, football has been a part of my life and continues to be a topic of conversation and interest with my friends, family, and colleagues. The Super Bowl is about having a collective group experience. I played my flute at all the football games in high school as a member of symphonic band, and when we weren’t marching we were watching the games and having fun together as a group.

The Super Bowl commands an average 112.2 million viewers each year, over a third of the U.S. population (Source: Census). Is it any wonder why brands advertise the hardest during the Super Bowl (Source: Nielsen)?

I think a commercial’s ability to influence consumer purchase intent is strongly dependent on how much that commercial elicited emotion for consumers. For example, if you ask me what my favorite Super Bowl commercial is, it’s going to be one that I can’t forget. The best (or most popular, or most defining) commercial for a brand is going to be the one that people can’t forget. That’s why I think memorability and emotion important factors in assessing the effectiveness of a commercial.

I got inspired to write this post because of this tweet from a mom on Twitter:

Lilly is just one of many people who if asked what their favorite Super Bowl commercial, it would be one that still sticks with them to this day. This would explain why lists are so popular during this time of year. Lists help us rediscover old commercials that made us feel a certain way. They give advertisers and brands a straightforward picture of what the culture loves to watch.

Nielsen uses two indexes for measuring the effectiveness of a Super Bowl commercial, one is the memorability index and the other is the likeability index (Source: Like Lilly, The Joy of Pepsi commercial is my favorite Super Bowl commercial too. It’s memorable and makes you feel like dancing.

Advertisers and brands understand the power of emotional branding, and remembering what their target audience grew up watching and enjoying allows them to better understand how to create a campaign that plays on those memories, so that we associate the brand with the good feelings we associated with the memory.

Both Super Bowl Commercials and Lists help people get in touch with a brand unconsciously.

Not only that, we bond with other people over the discussion of listing our favorite Super Bowl commercials. In the end, lists are just another way we further connect as a society, through shared experiences and conversation.