Big Game Blowoffs: No Guts, No Glory


You can’t see me right now, but I’m starting a slow clap. Because it’s exciting to see brands that are daring enough, even during “unprecedented” times, to tackle a marketing landscape that has become so tricky it has scared the gnarly, big dogs from the yard.

I’m talking about the Big Game. Specifically, brands like Chipotle, Mercari and Fiverr. Those Big Game newcomers are seizing an opportunity to have millions of eyes on them for 30 whole seconds for the low-low price of $5.5 million, despite the “let’s-walk-on-eggshells” energy out there right now.

But, more importantly, those guys have a firm grip on who they are. That’s why they can afford to dive into this thing as soda and beer kingpins opt for the sidelines. For the record, we’re cool with Bud sitting out since they’re funding vaccines and all, but what has you so scared, Coke? I’d be more spooked about staying on the bench — looking at you, Pepsi.

Why? Because the companies that don’t take their foot off the gas during recessions score — pun somewhat intended. Statistics show brands that lean in and push ahead with growth and investment experience 277% more growth than brands that pull back.

That’s why $5.5 million, if you’ve got it, is the easiest decision ever. It’s impossible to argue with that kind of success.

Yes, Chipotle — spend that cash! Because I’ve seen what happens when companies decide to double-down during economic downturns instead of sitting in a bunker and waiting for the storm of the moment to pass.

But let me be clear — as a fiscally responsible branding veteran, I’m not advocating for companies to start throwing cash around that they don’t have. There’s strategy in everything, and it all begins with authenticity, which by its very nature can’t be engineered.

The CEO of Mercari, an online marketplace advertising in the Big Game for the first time this year, totally gets what I’m saying, and I’ve never even met the guy. He told Variety that his team went with its “gut and heart” when it developed their spot for the game.

Isn’t that where authenticity lies? Inside, in a brand’s gut? The answer is yes.

It’s why, at WHYFOR, we believe so ferociously in working with brands to ensure they understand their anatomy — the “who” and the “why” of what they are. When companies know that, and embrace it, they don’t have to walk the tightrope that so many of today’s brands are trying to do. 

They want to be light-hearted and funny, but not disconnected. They want to match the tone of the nation, but don’t want to come across as somber. They don’t know how to support causes because they don’t even know if they believe in them.

That tightrope is a dangerous, ambiguous gamble. Authenticity is the safe bet, even when it costs $5.5 million.

As far as I’m concerned, first-timers like Mercari, Scotts Miracle-Gro, Chipotle and Fiverr are in the driver’s seat this weekend, no matter what. I mean, we’re talking about them, I’m already slow-clapping them, and I’m about to Google Triller — because they’re advertising, too, and I’m not ashamed to say I’m lost on who the heck they are.

But after Sunday, everyone will know.

From Rob’s Desk: We’re Ripe For A Renaissance

I remember sitting through high school history class, bored, drawing cars, not really paying attention to the topic being discussed. The teacher was going on about the Renaissance, an enlightening period of innovation and artistic accomplishment that came in the wake of the stagnant Middle Ages.

The excruciatingly-bored teenage version of me heard, simply: People in a really old time discovering new things with limited tools. I didn’t think much of it until now, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Renaissance, not my doodles.

This virus, and the pandemic it has spawned, is providing us the opportunity, if leveraged correctly, to launch a new renaissance across the United States – like the industrial revolution and the tech boom did in the wake of other difficult times. And with the numbers the way they are, and the economy in the shape it is, what a renaissance it could be.

We just need to be comfortable getting a little uncomfortable.

What a terrifying thing, right? Embracing discomfort. It’s an oxymoron, isn’t it? But the only reason we fear change is because it’s unknown. Change, even if it’s uncomfortable, could be better than the constant we know. How about that?

If you have ever worked with me, you know I love to look at situations from 30,000 feet. It’s the only way to gain clarity and see what’s ahead.

I developed an exercise that I run clients through called “Prophet to Profit.” It gives leaders an elevated view of the work they do, in order to better predict or envision the direction of an organization, an individual, or even an industry. More importantly, it provides a 15,000-foot action plan, so the zero-foot, boots-on-the-ground efforts can spur profit.

I guess I’m doing that now, with our collective whole as my client.

Industries are already demonstrating their abilities to pivot when they’re forced to – when the need to survive weighs more heavily than the need to stick with tradition and the “way we’ve always done things.” Companies that don’t make ventilators, are. Businesses that don’t produce masks, suddenly do. Breweries are stirring up sanitizer.

We are able to change. Especially when we have to.

This is our chance to reset the clock. How does your business, your approach, your life pivot? Now.

Nothing is normal right now. No business, no pantry, no errand, no home life, even as we begin to emerge from our mandated social isolation. We’ve already experienced radical change and new ways of doing things. We’re teaching our kids at home, we’re grocery shopping at weird hours, we’re standing six feet from one another and we’re washing our hands 316 times a day.

What’s one more change, especially if it proves a fruitful opportunity for the future?

Change is only uncomfortable because we don’t know what it holds. And we like what we know, which is one of the reasons we align ourselves with certain brands. But what if we took a view from above? Would change look different? I think so, yeah. And, I’ve seen it work.

The truth is we don’t know where this thing will end or how we will come out of it. The unknowns are endless. And, we have no control over it. So, when you’re thinking of your renaissance moment, ignore the landing.

Don’t worry about it. Instead, embrace change and consider where you fit, discover how these changes could catapult you to something that always seemed too scary before now. Because, to me, there’s nothing scarier than getting left behind…in the Dark Ages.