Depending on which teams are playing, I enjoy watching the Super Bowl as much for the commercials as for the game itself. It’s one of the few television events in which I don’t mute the TV when the ads come on. For someone who has spent his career in marketing, it is fascinating television.
We hosted a Super Bowl party at our house this year. Laughter and conversation filled the room throughout the game but when the ad for Dodge Ram entitled “God Made a Farmer” aired, a hush fell over the room. The ad featured the audio of a speech that the inimitable Paul Harvey delivered at the Future Farmers of America convention in 1978. Images of barns and farmers and farm equipment were used over the audio. We were all awestruck at its simple yet powerful message. It was the best ad of the night, hands down.
There are many commercials that are wildly entertaining but do little to sell product. Great ads do both. One of my all-time favorite TV ads was called “The Force.” It featured a pint-sized Darth Vader and his encounter with a Volkswagen Passat. It has collected over 56 million views on YouTube and was named the top advertisement of 2011 by Adweek. It helped Volkswagen achieve and impressive 13.1% increase in sales for 2011.
I believe the “God Made a Farmer” ad will lead to impressive sales growth for Dodge. There are four reasons why:
- The ad is about farmers not trucks: The ad was 2 minutes long. Images of trucks appear sporadically throughout the ad but it isn’t until the last 5 seconds that we learn that the advertiser is Dodge. The first 1:55 of the ad spoke about the consumer not the advertiser. I can picture farmers worldwide nodding in agreement and perhaps brushing away a tear as they hear affirming words about their importance to our nation…and in the eyes of God, no less! Then — in the last 5 seconds — they learn who was responsible for honoring them so profoundly. Dodge proved they understand farmers. Farmers will reward Dodge with sales.
- The ad has a laser-like focus: Although first published in 1993, “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing” is considered by many to be one of the best books on marketing ever written. According to authors Al Ries & Jack Trout, the 5th immutable law of marketing is called, “The Law of Focus.” They argue that companies should seek to own a word in the mind of your customers. One word. One word that sums up what that company is about. For example, Xerox owns “copier.” FedEx owns “overnight.” Kleenex owns “tissue.” Is there any doubt that Dodge Ram now owns the word “farmer” in the minds of truck buyers?
- The ad has strong emotional appeal: Marketing is a battle of perceptions, not products. The best-selling products are rarely the products with the best features; rather, they’re the ones that have captured the hearts and minds of the public. Great ads make us feel something deeply and then transfer those emotions to the product advertised. Was there anyone who can watch that ad and not be moved? Is there anyone who does not have a better perception of Dodge as brand after viewing the ad than they did beforehand? That’s good advertising.
- Paul Harvey: an endorsement from a celebrity can add tremendous power to a commercial but only if that personality has credibility with the core consumer. Although the ad was not an explicit endorsement of Ram trucks by the late Paul Harvey, it certainly was an implicit endorsement. Dodge could not have picked a better personality to use than the late Paul Harvey. At his peak, Paul Harvey reached over 22 million people weekly with his syndicated broadcast, many of those listeners living in rural, heartland areas. His folksy style and “common man” appeal is ideal for truck owners.
In short, Dodge nailed it. They tugged at our heart strings but most importantly they connected with a core consumer target…farmers.
This ad will sell trucks.