The Super Bowl is right around the corner. Whether you’re cheering for the Broncos or the Seahawks, we can all agree that part of the fun of the game are the commercials. Let’s face it – many of us even look forward to the breaks between gameplay to hear a word from sponsors.

Unfortunately for advertisers, simply having a spot on our screens during the big game doesn’t cut it anymore. These days, brands strive to be the most talked about ad, the one that will most often be shared, liked, retweeted, pinned, blogged about, and so on. Going viral is the goal.

Last year, brands tried different strategies in their aim to go viral.  Specifically, Coca-Cola, Budweiser, Go-Daddy, Doritos and Oreo made an impact on viewers. By looking at the different paths these ads took in achieving popularity on the Web, we can learn something about successful marketing strategies in the digital age.

Coca-Cola – Gamification

Coca-Cola chose an interactive approach to their Super Bowl ad. In the commercial, titled “Mirage,” three different groups of characters – “badlanders,” cowboys, and showgirls – are racing through the dessert toward a refreshing bottle of Coca-Cola in the distance. Viewers of the ad were able to vote on CokeChase.com for the group they wanted to win. Twitter hashtags were counted, as well. The showgirls won, in case you missed it.

This relates to a strategy known as “gamification,” wherein marketers create a game for consumers in order to support the sales of products or services. Consumers will actively engage with a brand when this happens successfully. Whether you have your customers vote for characters in an imagined race, set up an online scavenger hunt, or actually create a game application related to your products or services, gamification is a creative way to involve your audience.

Doritos – Help from Customers

Since 2006, Doritos has held a “Crash the Super Bowl” contest in which consumers are invited to create their own commercials, enter them, and compete for some pretty cool prizes. Last year, “Fashionista Daddy” grabbed the number one spot and the creator of the ad won the opportunity to work with Michael Bay on the fourth Transformers movie.

If you’re struggling to come up with ideas for a marketing campaign (or simply don’t have the time to come up with ideas), don’t hesitate to enlist some help from your audience. See what some of your social media followers can come up with. This will also strengthen your relationship with them, as it shows you value their input and ideas.

Budweiser – Pathos Appeals

Budweiser pulled out all the stops with their tear-jerking commercial about the relationship between a man and his horse. A baby horse, a sappy reunion, that Fleetwood Mac song – it had all the elements to successfully tug at your heart strings.

Just like traditional marketing off the web, pathos appeals – those that appeal to the audience’s emotions – will always work. In your marketing efforts online, you can align your brand with a charity in order to raise awareness for a worthwhile cause. You can start online petitions, fundraise, and more. Not only is this an actually good deed, but it has the opportunity to give your business some attention online and offline.

GoDaddy – Ridiculousness

If you didn’t hear about GoDaddy’s Super Bowl ad last year, then you must have been living under a rock. In this ridiculous commercial, model Bar Rafaeli, makes out with a stereotypical “geek.” There’s a weird close up, gross sound effects, and a general feeling of awkwardness.

While this may not be a new insight, the GoDaddy ad goes to show that ridiculous marketing efforts can leave lasting impressions on consumers. Everyone was talking about the ad, whether they found it funny… or disgusting. Don’t be afraid to get a little wild when seeking online attention for your brand. Just don’t go too overboard. Make sure that at some point, you’re brand has a connection to the promotion.

Oreo – Timeliness

It could be said that Oreo won the war of Super Bowl advertisements last year, when it sent out a single tweet during the game after the power went out. The tweet said, “Power out? No problem” and attached was a graphic that read “You can still dunk in the dark.” Unlike the other ads, Oreo didn’t shell out thousands of dollars for airtime.  They paid attention, got creative, and took to social media to be one of the most talked about brands of the day. Way to go Oreo!

This instance provides the final and most important digital marketing lesson: timeliness is next to godliness. Oreo took incredible advantage of the Super Bowl black out last year. In no time, the company posted a tweet, which has been retweeted over 15,000 times. If you’re prepared to react quickly and cleverly, you can turn almost anything into a marketing opportunity. And social media provides the perfect platform.

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