Home Leadership Need Motivation Tips? Learn from Super Bowl Commercials.

Need Motivation Tips? Learn from Super Bowl Commercials.

by Shelley Row

The big day was approaching. By “big day” I don’t mean election day (which can’t come soon enough) or a wedding day, I mean the Super Bowl—THE big day for sports fans. To be clear, I am not a sports aficionado but even people like me watch the Super Bowl. Not because of the game (maybe for the nachos and hot wings), but for the commercials. This year there was a special television program recapping the top 50 Super Bowl commercials over the years.

What’s your favorite Super Bowl commercial. …..got it? Maybe it’s the Mean Joe Green Coca-Cola commercial. Perhaps the one with the little boy dressed like Darth Vader who uses “The Force” to start his dad’s VW (my personal favorite); or the Cindy Crawford Pepsi commercial. Super Bowl commercials have much to teach us about connecting and motivating people. Consider Budweiser commercials.

Budweiser had more commercials in the top 50 Super Bowls ads than any other company. With that many ads, we must know the details of their brewing process, the ingredients in their beer, the number of people they employ. Surely, after all they invested in high-dollar advertising we know the facts about their beer. Or not. Think about the content of Budweiser’s high-priced ads. For the most part, Budweiser devoted their expensive television advertising opportunity to horses and puppies. Let me repeat that – horses and puppies. Why would they do that?

Budweiser understands that emotional connections motivate us. They aren’t the only ones. Research by Scott Magids, Alan Zorfas and Daniel Leemon, in their Harvard Business Review article, The New Science of Customer Emotions, demonstrates the power of tapping into emotional motivators. Their research shows that behavior is influenced by connecting with emotions that are important to the customer. For example, they identify “emotional motivators” such as:

• Stand out from the crowd

• Feel a sense of freedom

• Succeed in life

• Feel secure

This type of motivator is “intrinsic” in that it connects with our values, principles and the stuff we care about. Research in neuroscience confirms that the brain’s reward center responds particularly well to intrinsic motivators. That’s what the Budweiser ads do. Those horses and puppies tap into our “aww” response. We feel good. The same principles apply to motivating staff.

As a CEO you may strive to get your message out to employees. Maybe you wish to communicate about vision, mission, customer service, safety, production efficiency, or goals for your company. Your message has to break through the clutter that encapsulates your staff. You may have tried adding incentives or implementing performance measures. Those are extrinsic motivators. They seek to motivate through external influences like money. It works, to a point. But intrinsic motivators are more powerful for the brain and more likely to change behavior. How do you tap into intrinsic motivators?

Ask yourself these questions: Do you know why your employees care about the work they do? If they had a choice between this job and another for the same pay and benefits, would they stay with you? If so, why? If you don’t know the answer, ask them. For example, when I was an executive for the federal government, employee surveys identified that people who worked there wanted to make a difference. Had I understood the value of this information I could have used it more effectively. For you, this information can assist you to:

• Motivate staff to perform at their best;

• Retain employees because their work feels fulfilling; or

• Screen new employees for those naturally motivated by the type of work you do.

Increase motivation by understanding intrinsic motivators and how they connect to people’s jobs. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t provide good pay, benefits, and awards for performance. We should. And, we need horses and puppies.

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