Super Bowl Anti-Marketing

On Friday, Network Solutions launched its GoGranny campaign, a guerilla marketing effort featuring Cloris Leachman as a disgruntled, cursing elderly woman angry about being cut out of GoDaddy’s annual exploitative ads. The ad even features Lisa Stone, co-founder of BlogHer, endorsing NetSol as a serious ISP (full disclosure: NetSol was a former client in a past life). The well-received campaign continues an increasing trend from major companies engaging in non traditional “anti-marketing” during the Super Bowl.

Bucking the traditional advertising, PR and increasingly typical social media campaign, anti-marketing favors surprise, simplicity and exclusivity. Examples include clubs with no names, flash mob purchasing of suddenly available classic Nikes, and stripped-down menus that just offer one type of fare.

Anti-marketing principles are grounded in reverse psychology. It cuts through the noise by unselling, offering simplicity and clear value. Anti-marketing focuses on attraction, not promotion.

Pepsi Refresh’s controversial decision to pull its Super Bowl dollars last year to simply give the money to American nonprofits and individuals who wanted to better their communities is a classic example. While the campaign did receive criticism for its impact on nonprofits, it was wildly successful from a PR and social responsibility perspective, in large part because of the Robin Hood aura it painted around the brand. It was the exact opposite of what you’re supposed to do for a Super Bowl campaign.

Meanwhile the traditional Super Bowl spendathon continues with major brands engaged in a game of cloak and danger to distinguish themselves with advertising prowess. The debatable effectiveness of Super Bowl ads often depends on fantastic creative, even with the addition of social networking as a means of continuing the conversation started with a 30 second spot. With smartphones in hand, 18% of viewers are expected to visit advertiser web sites. Continuing interest from there demands a strong ladder of engagement.

For every great remembered Super Bowl Ad, there are dozens that slip the public consciousness by the Tuesday following. An academic study from Purdue revealed that a strong majority of people can’t remember any commercials from the 2010 Super Bowl. It may be the anti-marketing campaigns that continue to distinguish themselves.

What do you think of anti-marketing?