Over the past two years, Marketing Evolution has measured the impact of over twenty-five Super Bowl advertisements. Despite differences in creative, industry, and message, the ads that were most successful all had one key element in common: they told the consumer something new about their brand.

For all of its hype and glamour, the Super Bowl is, at its core, a reach play. Even with additional online viewing, the majority of those 100 million people (200 million eye balls) tuned into the Super Bowl will only see your brand’s ads one or two times. It’s extremely difficult to change someone’s opinion of your brand in just 1-2 ad exposures. It’s a whole lot easier to make them aware of your new product, feature, or brand.

The brands that have been most consistently successful in Super Bowl advertising have used the event to tell the consumer something new. Product awareness and consideration gains that would typically take weeks of consistent reach build during other points in the year can be achieved in a single night. New movies, new cars, and new brands or brand extensions have all benefited from achieving outsized gains in consumer consciousness by just one advertisement.

In fact, for these brand objectives, Super Bowl investments actually tend to be more efficient in driving awareness and consideration than trying to achieve the same gains through traditional channels.

Advertisers tend to get in trouble when they put the narrative above their product. Yes, consumers will like the ad, and even watch the ad a few more times, but if the link to the brand isn’t abundantly clear, those additional exposures aren’t going to change how someone thinks about your brand. Recent iconic ads like “Imported from Detroit” and E*Trade provide successful examples of how to marry engaging narrative and compelling product information.

Here is a game to play with your marketing colleagues. Share this “did it share something new about the brand” criteria with your marketing colleagues, and create a scorecard. Play Monday morning quarterback with your marketing colleagues and compare scores and discuss who you think the real winners were this Super Bowl Sunday. And, by the way, don’t get caught up in the “real-time” hype of Super Bowl Ad rankings. Although it never hurts for an ad to be buzz-worthy or funny, that alone will not change consumers’ perceptions of your brand. When impact on product awareness and purchase was compared to ad rankings on the leading “next-day” ad results, the relationship between the two was tenuous at best.

It’s not every day that you have a more than a hundred million people tuning-in to study your advertising, so remember to tell them something new.