Lessons from Brandbowl2010.com

Brandbowl2010.com delivered real time brand ranking

As many of you know, Mullen and Radian6 just finished a pretty cool project/experiment. On Superbowl Sunday we invited everyone and anyone on Twitter to join us on critiquing the always-anticipated ads. We drew from all of Twitter’s 40 million users to capture real time conversation so we could track each brand’s performance. And, by early Monday, we’d posted results, including volume of tweets, sentiment and overall rankings.

It took us weeks of development time to code and build Brandbowl, most of it at night long after the “regular” workday had ended.  We didn’t generate any revenue since we were too busy getting it done to sell a sponsorship (though we did get a couple of inquiries at the last minute). In fact a bunch of us had to forego enjoying the game or even the ads (the few worthy of enjoying) as we were consumed with managing the site, responding to requests or simply interacting with the thousands of folks who joined us.

So why did we do it? What was in it for Mullen? How are we measuring ROI?  Why would we go to the trouble? I got asked these questions a number of times; mostly from reporters, but also from industry colleagues and college professors. So here’s the answer, according to Christian Madden, Mullen’s director of digital production. “We did it because we can.  We did it because the digital tools are available.  We did it because in the age of social media you have to give to get. And we did it because doing is better than talking.”  Couldn’t have said it better myself.

As for the ROI, well there’s this:  learning, listening, conversation, press coverage, industry buzz, media impressions, awareness, community enthusiasm, employee pride and new business inquiries. All the same things we tell brands and marketers they can enjoy if they do social media right. In the case of Brandbowl2010 the ROI beat even our most optimistic expectations.

But the real reason we did Brandbowl is this: it reflects much of what we believe about marketing, advertising and social media.

Create utility not messages

Many marketers, advertisers and even agencies continue to think we’re in the business of creating messages. Messages interrupt. Isn’t it better to conceive experiences, utility and platforms?  Content that sparks engagement, interaction,conversation and even relationships? We think yes. No message, press release or ad could have connected with as many people as Brandbowl did.

Share your content

In this case we shared our idea with Radian6. They shared their tools with us. We both shared the experience with everyone and anyone; it was open to peers, colleagues, even rivals. (Note in the ad business we’re friends with our rivals and compete with our sister companies.) And, of course, we’re sharing the results, willingly offering data to some of the brands that have come to us after the fact and requested it. (New business is a long dance and it starts with that first conversation.) Remember what Chris Anderson tell us in Free: you have to give stuff away if you want to get anything back.

Invite participation and co-creation

Brandbowl may have been informative if all we’d done was capture the chatter and data from the Twittersphere. But it wouldn’t have been as much fun. People want to join in, play along, participate. Being able to tweet from the site, reply to others, and be part of a bigger conversation was our version of CNN/Facebook’s Inauguration mashup.  Nearly 8,000 people joined us in the conversation and in the process gave us insight, ideas and tips for making our own efforts even better.

Build a community that will help spread the word

If we had no friends or followers on Twitter, Brandbowl would have been invisible. But if you have a community with whom you engage, share, converse and interact on a regular basis, chances are they’ll lend their support (presuming they genuinely believe in what you’re up to).  I was fortunate that @bbhlabs, @bigspaceship, @schwartzie14, @eproulx, @thebeancast and others thought this idea was worth a shout out. No doubt they know I’d do the same for them.

Measure everything

It doesn’t matter whether you do it for yourself as an individual (blog, video, website) for your company or for a client. If you’re making an investment of time and money to create something you should measure it. Impressions, engagement, response, traffic, reaction. Obviously Brandbowl was all about measuring. Not only do we have stats and data about the success of all the brands that advertised on the game (now in high demand by the brands themselves) we have numbers that tell us whether this little project was worth it as well.

Suffice it to say we’ll be back next year.  What’s your next social media project going to be?

14 comments
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Dave Watson
Dave Watson

I appreciated brandbowl here in Prague.

It's very interesting to think of content as utility. Does that means brand = utility?

The originating content and subsequent re-purposed creations become utility items that grows & strength a brand. Brands have to be strong enough to withstand scrutiny and impacts to their audiences.

This is why the Google ad works so well...since any re-creation of the ad (both positive or negative) ends up strengthening Google's meaning.
.-= Dave Watson´s last blog ..Why Google’s Super Bowl ad works and proves Microsoft is the Jay Leno of tech =-.

Paul Zink
Paul Zink

"We did it because we can. We did it because the digital tools are available....." And I'd also guess you did it because it's just really cool. Congrats.

Yurie Park
Yurie Park

I was thrilled that you teamed up with radian6 to measure BrandBowl 2010 because ever since last year's Superbowl tweeting extravaganza along with my classma†es at BU, I have been wondering how everything we've tweeted will be measurable and put to use. Awesome work.

Mike Scheiner
Mike Scheiner

Edward, the simple idea of creating a real time method to connect with a community, measure response and opinion was a brilliant idea. You also realize that the Brandbowl platform is also scalable to other big TV media events such as the Oscars, Grammy's etc. I have to think that most brands will be curious about the *gut tweets* viewers had regarding which spots were liked and disliked. Also pondering, if their multi-million dollar plus effort was really worth it, and did it generate more negative commentary, than sales or awareness? I'm also curious to know why and as mentioned above, the lack of encouragement or push to go that that brands site to further enhance the experience or brand connection? Personally, my favorite part was sitting and watching the game and sharing and reading tweets about the spots, and the game with several hundred followers all in the comfort of my living room. Thank you again for sharing this.

edward boches
edward boches

Not sure if you remember, we did the Oscars and the Superbowl in 09. RedCarpet and Trash Talk. We offered Red Carpet to TJ Maxx for a small price, alas they weren't forward thinking enough to embrace it. Not sure if we will do it this year or not. But yes, this is easily scalable. However, our community is obviously more rooted in the ad industry, so easier to get big participation. For Red Cartpet (in our case it was about fashion, not advertising)we thought it best for a brand like TJ to push it out.

Arafat Kazi
Arafat Kazi

Brandbowl was awesome and I loved it, as did many of my friends. Thanks and kudos for such an awesome idea.

edward boches
edward boches

You are welcome. It was a blast and we learned a lot.

Mark Harmel
Mark Harmel

The Twitter crowd is very wired which could have made it more inclined to vote for the Google ad. AdAge has a post about this today: http://adage.com/digital/article?article_id=141993

My guess is that this stream was heavy on advertising & media creators who could also be upset with Google for disrupting their industries.

It definitely was fun watching the tweets roll in. Thanks for the second show.
.-= Mark Harmel´s last blog ..Eric Roth Receives 2010 Scripter Literary Achievement Award =-.

Mark Harmel
Mark Harmel

Thanks for the heads-up on the ThugLife article. I may be too focused on my edited Twitter space, and forget what I see I view the geographically local tweets.

Was there a way to pull in ad comments that didn't have the hashtags? That could bring in a wider audience.
.-= Mark Harmel´s last blog ..Eric Roth Receives 2010 Scripter Literary Achievement Award =-.

edward boches
edward boches

Perhaps. But there are many many sub cultures on Twitter. Just check out Alan Wolk's piece in Ad Age this week. http://adage.com/digitalnext/post?article_id=141994 Whether or not those other groups were discussing ads is questionable. May be true that people who are on Twitter who would talk the ads are in the biz or related. But not necessarily. We'll see if we can grab that from the data. Thanks for the thought.

Mary Ann Halford
Mary Ann Halford

Edward, first of all, hats off to you, your Mullen team and Radian6 for creating an amazing engagement experience.

As I actively participated in Sunday Night's BrandBowl (and watched an amazing game in between), I thought about how your BrandBowl platform could be scaled. 105 MM people were watching. Many were near a computer or a smart phone and could have participated. A large number of the TV's being watched had interactive capabilities. And we know (from Nielsen) that at least 12 % (12 MM +) were likely watching and using the web at the same time.

I then thought of 2 - 3 years from now when the BrandBowl was simulcast next to the live Super Bowl coverage. Now we are talking about a scalable conversation between advertisers and the audience. I also thought about the premiums that could be paid on top of that $ 3 MM per spot currently being paid. That $ 3 MM only buys you reach - it doesn't buy you engagement (which of course has to be earned)

All this future thinking made me sad about the missed opportunity in this nascent state of integrated marketing. Outside of the CBS promos and movie trailer ads, there were 55+ corporate ads, 18 of which had NO call to action or URL links. 17 linked you to their website URL (big deal). 12 pointed you to a product page and a smattering had a call to action. And NONE of the 55 had any social media integration. Of course, during the live broadcast, many wouldn't have wanted to put down a beer to check out a web or social media link. But what about the next morning, when the water cooler was people watching Super Bowl commercials again on You Tube and Hulu? Wouldn't those social media links had value then? I then thought about the missed opportunity cost . . .

All this being said, many thanks for our thoughtful piece and most importantly all your amazing work in creating an experience that demonstrates the real engagement potential of one of America's greatest tentpole events.

edward boches
edward boches

This is great stuff, Mary Ann. I didn't go looking for whether this was the case. If it is, it's a sad state of affairs. You could argue that the presence of the ads on YouTube, on blogs, in chatter is, in fact, a little bit of social integration. But let's face it, the future is really about having a non-tv idea first, a platform or an experience or an application that lives in the digital space, and then the tv spot is simply a message about it. And, of course, it's all participatory. As someone once said, "a generation has to die first." Or at least the current one has to transform its way of thinking.

Ben Kunz
Ben Kunz

First, this was well done and I wish you nothing but success.

Second, it raises an interesting issue of co-opting someone else's audience. The Super Bowls has huge brand equity, and what BrandBowl did was cleverly port that audience over to your own buzz central. I'm in favor of this, but it does raise an ethical question of who owns a network, and whether anyone clever can move a network to another place.

I don't mean brandjacking or IP issues, but the broader concept of human networks. If one idea as innovative as BrandBowl can grab mind share, is this OK with the employers/brands/businesses that spent years developing that audience? And how do we reconcile the desire of organizations to control their audiences with the new insurgent individuals who can take that audience away?

Well done, either way, Edward.
.-= Ben Kunz´s last blog ..When we have telepathy, who will own your mind? =-.

edward boches
edward boches

Ben:
The difference is that we didn't grab the Superbowl audience. We connected with "our" community. People in advertising, marketing, agencies, clients. Most of the participants on the right side of the page are among either Mullen's community or the extended community of our community. Think Facebook/CNN Inauguration. No one owns the event. CNN broadcasts it and partners with FB to create a new event for a specific community. If you went to a game and had a tailgate party and invited all your friends to the party, are you co-opting the event? No, you are creating your own event within it. We did far more work to create and attract an audience/community than the Superbowl did to help us. This is the first time ever I disagree with your implied premise and argument, if you can call it that. :-)

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