8 Things We Can Learn From Godaddy’s Super Bowl Puppy Fail

Godaddy Super Bowl 2015 Puppy Fail

We’re not necessarily “outraged” or “offended” by GoDaddy’s latest Super Bowl attempt — but, as marketers, we do find it truly thought-provoking.  One has to wonder, “What were they thinking?”

We’ll get to that in a moment, but here’s a quick recap to get you up-to-speed on what’s been happening:

The 2015 GoDaddy Super Bowl ad depicts an adorable Golden Retriever puppy who falls out of a box from the back of a pickup truck and races through the rain back to his home — only to find that he’s been sold on a website built by GoDaddy! “Ship him out!” the presumed  Backyard Breeder orders the delivery driver — who happens to be race car driver Danica Patrick.

Needless to say, the animal rights activists were all over this one. “Journey Home” previewed Monday morning on the Today show; by Tuesday evening, a Change.org petition had over 42,000 signatures calling for the company to pull the ad — which they promptly did.

“We underestimated the emotional response. And we heard that loud and clear,” GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving admitted, adding: “You’ll still see us in the Big Game this year, and we hope it makes you laugh.”

[Tweet “8 things we can learn from the GoDaddy Super Bowl puppy fail #GoDaddyPuppy”]

Upon further inspection, we discovered what went wrong — and what went right — for GoDaddy with their puppy Superbowl ad. So, without further ado…

Here are 8 things we can learn from the GoDaddy puppy fail:

1. Know what your competition is doing.

GoDaddy may have “missed the mark,” but many analysts say GoDaddy was aiming to “poke fun at Budweiser’s cheesy-but-adorable” puppy ads (while hoping to copy their success, no doubt!) Last year, Budweiser’s “Puppy Love” commercial earned rave reviews as the web’s “top commercial,” as voted by Hulu viewers. This year, Budweiser has released teasers of a “Lost Puppy” ad that is already pulling at people’s heart strands. “The Budweiser Clydesdales have appeared in our Super Bowl ads for nearly three decades,” Budweiser VP Brian Perkins said in a press release. “This year, they will live up to their reputation and once again save the day in a heartwarming story about best buds never letting you down.” PUKE, right?! Before the controversy erupted, the mind behind GoDaddy’s controversial ad, Gerry Graf, told Ad Week, “We’re playing with Super Bowl clichés. There seems to be five puppy ads every year. So, we’re going to go hang out and play in that area.” Not everyone got the satire, but you can be sure the controversy will only help paint Budweiser as “the good guys” this year — at least for some viewers. Other viewers may get a chuckle out of the satire, after all.

Budweiser Super Bowl puppy ad

Image source: Adweek.com

2. The internet is POWERFUL!

As T-Mobile Chief Marketing Officer Mike Sievert said of the Kim Kardashian ad (see #5 below), “She’s a social media powerhouse. This isn’t just a TV commercial. This isn’t just a 30-second spot. This is a social media event.” We see the same truth in the GoDaddy puppy fail. It’s not “just TV.” Social media is so powerful and pervasive that the crowd sets the agenda for what stories journalists will cover — and how they will cover it. If viewers had laughed at the GoDaddy ad and tweeted about what a great Budweiser parody it had been, then perhaps that would have been the headlines Tuesday morning. But it was not to be! With millions of tweets, Facebook posts, and YouTube reactions being sent out before, during, and after the Super Bowl, “Game Day” is certainly one of the biggest social media events of the year as well.

3. Use multiple internet channels to save face.

We wonder what Blake Irving was doing when he got the call. We imagine there was some meek intern on the other end of the line saying, “Uh, sir? Something has gone horribly wrong with the puppy ad… the tweets are, quite frankly, off-the-chain, Mr. Irving. You had better respond.” Instead of delegating, Blake Irving grabbed the bull by the horns and took responsibility, immediately taking to social media himself to apologize.

godaddy CEO responding on Twitter to puppy controversy

He swiftly announced that they would not be running the Super Bowl ad. Danica Patrick was rounded up to make an apology video that was distributed virally, and seemed to calm some critics. The official GoDaddy Twitter account featured a pinned post linking to an interview where Blake Irving had a chance to explain himself and apologize once again. He chose not to post a mass message on his personal account, as to not further fuel the fire, but he did respond individually to groups like the SPCA and other tweeters. “GoDaddy did the right thing by swiftly promoting adoption,” said PETA director Colleen O’Brien. The CEO further clarified in a statement to the press that the dog in the ad had come from “a reputable and loving breeder in California.” Irving explained, “He’s become part of the GoDaddy family as Chief Companion Officer, and has been adopted permanently by one of our longtime employees.”

4. Word travels fast on the internet, so respond quickly!

As a marketer, you really have to be several steps ahead of everything that you release. How long does it take to sink your ship? Apparently, less than one day! The number of #GoDaddyPuppy tweets that came out in less than a week are STAGGERING! You can’t put your head in the sand like an ostrich and hope for the clamor to go away. Blake Irving was able to react quickly and effectively across all media channels. As quickly as the initial story broke, news of the ad’s removal from the Super Bowl line-up and his Danica Patrick adoption video were circulating. Social media can be your worst enemy, but it can also be your best friend when it comes to damage control!

5. Fearless risk-taking is all part of business.

Caution is prudent, within reason, but if advertisers obsessed over who would or wouldn’t be offended by everything they put out there, we’d have nothing memorable. In this politically correct world, we can get too tightly wound and take ourselves too seriously. Sometimes advertisers can lighten up the mood by “owning the controversy.” GoDaddy might do that with a future ad making fun of themselves for the failed puppy ad — like how Kim Kardashian lightly mocked herself in this Team Mobile ad.

6. Emotional storytelling is the sweet spot for advertisers.

According to USA TODAY, puppies are always at the top of their Super Bowl Ad Meter competition. But think again before you decide to just throw a few cuddly animals into your next ad, brand strategist Allen Adamson tells CMS Wire. While puppies may curry the public’s favor, they don’t always win in B2B communications, he says. However, “emotional branding” is our big marketing take-away from all this. Storytelling that uses emotional branding is one of the most significant drivers of customer loyalty. Budweiser’s Brian Perkins told USA TODAY, “To us, it’s less about puppies specifically, and more about how the Budweiser Clydesdales and their friend, the puppy, help us tell a story around the quality of our beer.” Advertisers may not always get it right — Writer Upton Sinclair’s words echo in our minds: “I aimed for the public’s heart, and accidentally hit it in the stomach” — but marketers are wise to at least aim for that emotional sweet spot.

7. “Failure” isn’t always bad for business.

What may seem like a failure at face value can be a blessing in disguise. GoDaddy is no stranger to controversy. Their “sexist” 2013 Super Bowl ad “Perfect Match” was hated 3-to-1 by viewers, but chief marketing officer Barb Rechterman told Forbes the ad was “a memorable spot,” whether people loved or hated it. “That spot, by the way, helped us achieve our best sales day ever — the Monday after the Super Bowl. We’ve been in business since 1997, and we’ve done nine years’ of Super Bowl ads, so for us to have our best sales day ever, that’s saying a lot,” she said. With $1.3 billion in revenue in 2012, the company is on-track to reach $5 billion-a-year soon. They didn’t even have to run the ad to get the attention this year! As they say, “Negative publicity is better than no publicity.”

[Tweet “How GoDaddy’s controversial Super Bowl commercial is impacting business. #8ways #GoDaddyPuppy”]

8. Testing your ads will save you a lot of money!

Does it sting that people loathed GoDaddy’s ad, which they had hoped would have audiences chuckling? Yeah, it does. Yet, it could have been a whole lot worse! Imagine if GoDaddy had shelled out $4.5 million for the controversy? Not to mention, they would have reached even more people who would, no doubt, be completely outraged and join in on the social media hate-fest. Plus, they would have no way to save face once the ad had already run. In this instance, previewing the ad to test the waters before Game Day saved the company a lot more grief — and money!

Looking For A GoDaddy Alternative?

So what’s our take on the GoDaddy brand? They are undoubtedly big players in the market because of their large PR stunts, but better products exist that many small business owners simply don’t know about. That’s where my Resources Guide comes in handy! I list my top hosts, domains, website builders, and other online solution providers for DIY marketers.

Here are a few top GoDaddy alternatives I mention in my guide:

– Hosting: Hostgator

– Domain Name: Namecheap

– Website Builder: WordPress

For more marketing insights, check out our free Facebook group for marketing entrepreneurs: Mod Agency Insiders!

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  1. Reply

    GoDaddy is the Kodak of web hosting to me. I prefer Hostgator and make that suggestion when asked by friends and clients. I wish, and I am probably in the minority, I wish more Superbowl commercials concentrated on a GREAT story RELATING to their actual product and not just shock value and flair. Again, I am probably in the minority. Great post with great points, too.

    • Reply

      I agree with you Anthony. I recommend Hostgator frequently over Godaddy for hosting services. I do, however, like Godaddy’s auction platform as I have scored some pretty amazing expired domain names there! And yes, a great story relating to a company’s product would be nice, but apparently Kim Kardashian and puppies are more appealing! Thanks for your comment Anthony.

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