Whether you were rooting for the Patriots, the Seahawks, the Budweiser puppy, or Missy Elliot’s revival, this Sunday’s Super Bowl experience was full of moments that made us think, “Um….”

Of course, once the game was over, we were able to think critically and derive some insight from the mistakes of others. So, in no particular order, here are 5 business-to-business marketing “Don’ts” we learned during the Super Bowl.

Don’t Expect Big Legends to Last Forever

Since 1989, Joe Montana has held the record for most Super Bowl touch down passes. In Super Bowl XLIX yesterday, Tom Brady surpassed the 49ers legend (and his own personal hero) and holds the new record: 13.

In marketing technology, there are a few big giants who have been at the top of the food chain for a while now. Unlike Joe Montana, they haven’t been forced into retirement, so they still have a chance to compete with the younger crowd and set new records. But no company, big or small, is going get anywhere by resting on their laurels.

Don’t Choose the Wrong Channel

Nationwide wanted to teach an important lesson in a commercial driving users to the website makesafehappen.com, but it caught audiences off-guard and as result, got some criticism across the web. (Here’s the video. Warning: It’s kind of a bummer.)

We’ve all had those brainstorming meetings where our goal is to be really thought-provoking, but sometimes, our ideas aren’t received exactly the way we hoped they would be. Nationwide had a huge win with its Mindy Kaling ad, so it’s clear that it knows how to do a Super Bowl ad, but the very serious information it shared in its second commercial felt too grim for many watchers.

As content marketing strategist Robert Rose points out, this was actually a great example of telling a story rather than pushing a brand — in fact it was the only Super Bowl ad to apply that method. Nationwide had an important message and it has a great opportunity to continue this conversation on other channels.

But as it turns out, Super Bowl audiences don’t like to cry at commercials (unless they involve the adorable Budweiser puppy.)

Don’t Deliver a Disconnected Experience

Among the many baffling aspects of Katy Perry’s halftime show, one really stood out: The dancing shark who got noticeably derailed from the choreography. It’s unfortunately a fact of human nature that when things are seamless, they don’t get much attention. But when they go wrong, everybody notices!

When it comes to customer communication, inconsistencies are going to jump out. So even if you do something incredibly epic like a ride around on a giant, gold, robotic tiger, people are going to focus on that one little detail you screwed up. 

Don’t Forgo Strategy for Fancy Tactics   

Some of us are happy about the final score, some of us are crushed, but we’re all aware that in the final moments of the game, Seahawk’s coach Pete Carroll made a call that turned what might have been an easy running play into a game-winning interception for the Patriots.

It’s easy to pin the blame on him, but it’s important to remember that we all like to play with shiny objects, even when they don’t fit in with our overall strategy. In Carroll’s case, it was the second down; he had time on the clock and a timeout left. A safer play was appropriate and probably would have resulted in a Seahawks win, but according to Carroll, the goal was to  “kind of waste that play.”

In B2B marketing, as in football, every play counts. And every play (or email, event, tweet, webinar, etc.) should exist to drive one goal. We all want to do fancy, cool, innovative things, but none of them should exist in a silo or for their own sake. You don’t always have to play it safe, but it comes to the mechanics behind your tactics, keep it simple.

Don’t Rely on Miracles

Although scapegoating Carroll is fun (and even kind of makes sense), it’s important to remember the Seahawks caught a lot of lucky breaks to get to the Super Bowl (and one pretty lucky pass to get as far as they did in the last minute of the game.)

In B2B marketing it’s easy to get excited about our lucky breaks as well, whether it’s a viral blog post or a truly epic event. Those types of one-off wins can create good feelings and enthusiasm, but they don’t take you all the way. Although in football the occasional upset happens and the best team doesn’t always win, in B2B marketing, it’s a lot more straightforward.

To win our version of the Super Bowl, we need a consistent, documented strategy, impeccable customer engagement, targeted, integrated campaigns and maybe, just maybe, some intentionally deflated game balls.

-Peter-Isaacson-colorPeter Isaacson is the chief marketing officer for Demandbase, where he is responsible for the company’s overall marketing strategy and execution — including corporate, product and field marketing — closely aligning marketing strategies with increased revenue and business results. Prior to joining Demandbase, Isaacson served as CMO at Castlight Health.


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