5 Marketing Lessons Learned From Gong’s Super Bowl Ad
Did you hear about the first revenue intelligence platform that was advertised during the world’s largest sporting event?
You know, the one that every B2B leader has been raving about?
Even more awesome is listening to Udi Ledergor, the mastermind behind this legendary advert and CMO at Gong. He was a guest on Cognism’s Revenue Champions podcast, where he spoke about what happened behind the scenes of Gong’s Super Bowl ad and the results that followed.
In this article, we explore Udi’s strategy and provide five key takeaways you can action in your marketing today.
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1. Give best practice the boot
Let’s be frank:
You don’t create an outstanding B2B marketing brand by playing it safe.
One thing we learned from listening to Udi discuss how he came up with Gong’s Super Bowl ad is that best practice is about as safe as you can get in SaaS marketing.
And, if it were up to Udi, best practice would get the boot.
Before you close the tab, hear us out!
Udi made a great case for why he isn’t the biggest fan of best practice:
“At Gong, we like to look at best practice. But the thing with best practice is that after a while it just becomes a standard form of doing things, and you no longer stand out.”
“So if you want to stand out, you need to do the opposite of what your competitors are doing.”
Makes sense right?
And thinking outside of the box is what’s going to get you noticed (and generate more leads) than all your competitors who are sticking to best practice.
“Ignore what everyone else is doing and think about how you can do what no one else is doing to stand out.”
Here’s an example:
When building the Gong website, Udi’s team made a checklist of everything their competitors were doing and did the opposite - and in so doing, they built a brand that everyone takes notice of.
For one thing, you’ll see that Gong doesn’t use stock photography. All of their photos are their own. The sales team are dressed like real salespeople and they’re usually shown as having a good time, because conveying authority doesn’t need to be serious and boring - that’s a trick that Udi picked up from B2C marketing.
And this led to one of the best B2B Super Bowl adverts of all time.
To make it work, Udi got inspiration from watching TV.
Yep, all those days spent binge-watching Netflix can actually be a benefit to demand generation!
Udi’s thoughts were:
“Can I put a B2B twist on it?”
For the Gong Super Bowl ad, he watched beer commercials, not other sales tech adverts.
Because they’re boring, of course!
But they won’t be if you take a leaf out of Udi’s book:
“Inspiration is everywhere - get away from best practice and get creative.”
2. Make human-to-human marketing your goal
You’ll notice that Gong’s Super Bowl ad starts with a great hook:
“Funny thing happened this year, my team went remote.”
As a B2B leader, that’s going to catch your attention because it’s relatable.
“The biggest thing B2C has been doing differently to B2B for years is that they talk like human beings.”
“B2C brands have realised that to survive and attract and engage with their consumers, they need to talk to them like human beings. They can’t be talking down to them.”
“If their consumer wears sweatpants, they aren’t going to show up wearing a suit and tie! It would be condescending and look ridiculous. But B2B brands still mostly show up like that.”
“So the one thing that great B2B brands are starting to do more of right now - is just talking like human beings.”
This is the second-best lesson we learnt from Gong’s Super Bowl advert:
If you want to market your brand in the best possible way, you need to open your platforms up for conversation. Auto responses and copy/paste messaging are just not going to fly anymore - not if you want to build a great brand that gets people posting about you like this:
“The message matters a lot more than the packaging - if you have an ugly website and you have a great message, it will work.”
“If you have a beautiful website and a bad story then you won't get sales.”
So stop worrying about perfection and start jumping on what your followers care about in the here and now. Engage on social media; create campaigns that reflect your support for the causes your buyers care about. Lastly, be real!
Brands that don’t do this will be left behind and overlooked; brands that do are going to be celebrated with more opportunities, a greater following and increased customer loyalty.
These are factors Udi had to consider when creating the Super Bowl advert:
“I wanted whoever was watching to be entertained, but what I really wanted was for sales professionals to feel noticed, to feel special. So I had to include aspects that might only make sense to them.”
The problem was, Gong isn’t a repeating brand like Pepsi or Coca-Cola. Udi had to be sure that he had the right message and caught his target audience’s attention fast:
“I had to assume no one had heard about us. Now imagine having to tell everyone who you are, what you do and where you can get our service in 30 seconds!”
Boy did he manage to achieve it though, with artistic brilliance too, if we might add!
“I needed to make sure that my target audience didn’t move from the TV so I had to make it clear to them that they should not get up right now.”
“My thought was that I'm going to self-qualify my audience just like when we’re doing regular eBooks on social media, a great way to do that is to put their title in the title or headline of the guide.”
“If it works for social, why not TV? So we zoomed in on the desk plate that says Vice President of Sales.”
After that, they showed a few screens of Gong’s software so the audience understood what the ad was about. The last few days were spent editing, so they could get one second in for the CTA.
Gong didn’t fight COVID. They knew it was a huge factor in people’s lives, and pretending it wasn’t real would only come across as insensitive. Embracing the pandemic and its challenges for B2B sales professionals helped them connect with their audience on a human level.
“We filmed during lockdown, so we couldn’t have a full cast or people running around without masks. It wouldn’t be real or possible to produce during COVID.”
“So we used one actor. He’s walking around a dark empty office and talks about going remote. We created something very real and relevant to the time we’re living in.”
3. Don’t sideline your audience
Udi likes his brand to show up where its audience is.
As we mentioned above, that means forgetting their titles and thinking about what they get up to as human beings.
“You need to think about your customer as a person who does day-to-day things and target them while they are doing those things. Not assuming that they are going to visit your website. Look at patterns of where they are going and show up there.”
Follow this advice:
- Where do they hang out?
- Where do they get groceries?
- How do they get around?
These are all questions you can ask yourself when putting together a campaign - a great, out-of-the-box campaign that’s sure to get the B2B community talking.
“Sometimes I want to get to buyers when they are out grocery shopping or I’ll try to catch them when they are least expecting it, like when they are tuning into the big game so I'll do a Super Bowl commercial.”
“Yes, B2B buyers also watch the Super Bowl, why should that screen time be reserved for B2C?”
When you think outside of the box, you really can go anywhere - LinkedIn, Google search, your own website, stores they shop at or even their favourite drink.
This thinking has inspired some amazing ideas of Udi’s, besides the Super Bowl ad:
“When Salesforce hosted Dreamforce, I didn’t attend. Instead, I wrapped a bunch of Uber and Lift cars and paid them to swarm around Dreamforce at certain times of the day - we got a lot of attention from doing that.”
The Super Bowl, Uber, Lift, and...food delivery robots?!
There really is no end to where you can target your prospects!
Udi explained his thinking:
“Imagine you’re a CFO who orders pizza for his family every Friday, and your pizza gets delivered with your branding on it? That would catch your attention, right?”
“I’m still trying to figure out the targeting aspect, but food delivery robots are the exact kind of thing I’m looking for.”
That’s lesson three folks:
Don’t push your audience to the side - rather find out where they hang out and show up there.
4. Prioritise your team
Udi delivered a lesson for all B2B marketing leaders:
“If you don’t know how your CEO likes their coffee, you aren’t close enough. You need to be meeting with them every week, or you aren’t doing it right.”
As a marketing leader, your relationship with your CEO is incredibly important.
“It allows me to act kind of on a whim, like when I was trying to think of a way to celebrate our outstanding Gongsters. I only told a select few, we got them to come in for a photoshoot for the ‘website’ and then I put their faces on billboards across the city.”
This brings us to the next most important lesson we learnt from the Gong Super Bowl ad:
“It's really about having good relationships with your team and building a relationship of trust because that's what lets you have the freedom to experiment - trust and communication.”
Not only does Udi make every effort to build relationships with the higher-ups, but he values and celebrates hard work and team effort whenever possible.
Maybe you’ve seen an outstanding Gongster billboard around your city?
None of the Gongsters knew they’d been chosen - they literally woke up the next day with billboards from Gong congratulating and thanking them for being such outstanding members of the team.
“I couldn’t do something like this on a whim without my crazy idea budget because it was just that! An idea that needed to be implemented quickly.”
“It worked out fantastically; not only did the outstanding Gongsters feel appreciated but it got the whole team working towards getting a billboard of their own the next year - it’s been going strong for three years now.”
Here’s a post from Laura Vitaro, after finding out she’s an aspiring Gongster:
This doesn’t only help you build successful relationships with your team, it helps prospective candidates remember you - they see those billboards and say, oh wow, I want to work for a company that values their employees like this!
“If you’re a marketing leader and you haven’t built this trust with your team, you aren’t going to be able to pull things like this off.”
“It’s not like, oh how did you trick your CEO into giving you a budget - I didn’t, I went through a process, a process that took years of building a relationship where I could achieve these things.”
Udi learned about the Super Bowl opportunity towards the end of 2020 and the Super Bowl was in Feb. He recounted what happened next:
“I got a call from Monika about Super Bowl adverts and I was kind of like ah thanks, this is great but you guys are probably way too expensive for me so let’s keep in touch for another year. But she pushed back and said, she might have options at an affordable cost.”
Intrigued, Udi went on to learn that you can buy regional advertising with pricing based on the population - which is exactly how B2C brands think. This made the areas he wanted to target well within Gong’s budget.
“I had drinks with my CEO and as soon as he heard ‘Super Bowl’, he asked how much.”
“When I told him, he was really excited and was like, okay let's go twist the arm of the CFO. We had dinner with him the next night and he sent out an email to a couple of board members to get their opinion.”
B2B adverts for the Super Bowl just don’t work, but we trust Udi to be able to pull it off. Go do this!
And that’s how you get your CEO and CFO to sign off on your ideas - you build trust and relationships.
Or as Udi said:
“You need to be open and honest with the guys in charge because yeah, sometimes you mess up. I’ve messed up spectacularly, things haven’t always worked out as expected but sometimes things work out way better than I ever thought.”
“But having that relationship of trust, and getting them to believe you have the company's best interests at heart and telling them the results of your experiments builds a great relationship.”
5. Change the game with content distribution
Here’s the last lesson learned from Gong’s Super Bowl ad.
It’s not just about the planning and implementation of a project. What you do after matters just as much, if not more.
And this one:
Udi spoke about what happened after the ad was broadcast:
“People couldn’t stop commenting. We tied it in with a free swag campaign - printed special edition Gong Super Bowl T-shirts for everyone who shared the video that weekend. We printed 200, by Sunday we had to print more to keep up with the demand.”
This might be one of the last lessons we learnt from Gong’s advert, but it’s arguably the most important.
“We weren’t expecting a phenomenal short-term impact. We told everyone not to expect that, but to expect long-term results. It didn’t work out that way.”
“Five days after the Super Bowl, we had 500 prospects contacting us and mentioning the Super Bowl (tracked via Gong). That was already an amazing signal that things were working.”
“At the end of that week, we found out that we'd broken a record for the most inbound leads ever collected at Gong and the most inbound business opportunities ever accepted.”
And for Udi, the best result takes us back to lesson four - his relationship with his CEO got even stronger.
Gong’s Super Bowl ad: the last word
There you have it! The five lessons we learned from Udi’s amazing Super Bowl advert.
If you want to start thinking along the same lines in your marketing campaigns, be sure to implement them all going forward:
- Find out what everyone else is doing, and do the opposite.
- Embrace the H2H approach.
- Go where your audience is - don’t expect them to come to you.
- Build trustworthy and respectful relationships with the entire company.
- Your campaign isn’t done just because it’s out there - look to content distribution for even better results!
And finally, get even more insights by listening to our interview with Udi - press ▶️ to hear about Gong’s Super Bowl ad and lots more!