What One Super Bowl Story Can Teach About Small Business Marketing

goldiebloxThough 2014 is only a month old, it’s already been one heck of a year for small businesses.

First, President Obama compliments mom-and-pop shops, web startups and smaller companies alike in his State of the Union remarks, labeling them the “lifeblood of our economy” and leaders in its overall recovery. Now, as the Washington Post reports, the biggest sporting event of the year is giving one lucky business the chance for maximum public exposure.

During this Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVIII on CBS, toy company GoldieBlox will become the first-ever small business to have a television commercial air during the broadcast. GoldieBlox, which began not even two years ago, is truly a tiny business, with only 15 full-time employees currently on staff.

The toymakers beat out three other finalists including Barley Labs (a pet food company), Dairy Poop (a composting business) and Locally Laid Egg Co. (an organic egg farm). Intuit, the parent company of TurboTax and Quicken, sponsored tohe contest, and will be picking up the $4 million price tag for GoldieBlox’s 30-second advertising spot.

In terms of small business marketing, this contest — called Small Business, Big Game — is a landmark event. An estimated 103.4 million people tuned into last year’s Super Bowl broadcast, and projections are similar for this year’s game. That means 103.4 million people will soon know about GoldieBlox, a company whose previous biggest claim to fame was a viral video that swiped a Beastie Boys tune without proper permission.

For a small business, those kinds of numbers can have a tremendous impact on future sales.

If you’re up on all the trends in the marketing realm, you know that visualization is the key to lasting success. The explosion of new technologies, apps and other opportunities on the web has led to lasting brand visibility in part because of SEO and social media efforts, all good tools to have in the utility belt of a small company. Look at Instagram’s staggering 130 million active users, Vine’s 13 million and the projections that point to video taking over two-thirds of all mobile data in just three years.

In short, small businesses rely on web-based platforms — especially blogs and professional websites — in order to build the most lasting visual brands they can. A story like GoldieBlox’s inspires hope for future startups, especially since company founder Debbie Sterling began the business after crowdsourcing her initial costs via Kickstarter. Just consider, for a moment, how uniquely 21st-century a tale like that is.

So, why would Intuit (a giant in the software industry) want to put its fingerprints on a contest like this? For one thing, it relies almost entirely on small businesses for its tax-prep software customer base. A well-promoted contest like this allows Intuit to get a whole new level of exposure for itself in addition to providing a platform for a burgeoning business like GoldieBlox. There’s no denying that GoldieBlox is coming out on top, but the real winner here might actually be Intuit — an easy payment of $4 million (plus promotional fees) for press exposure all across the media.

Whether you’re in the toy business, the organic egg industry or the tax trade, it always helps to be at the epicenter of the latest marketing trends. Therefore, it’s important to remember that recent reports have found that 96% of small businesses have five employees (or fewer). That means each person is wearing multiple hats, especially the CEO — who often serves as the chief marketer as well.

2014 is going to be year of better-looking websites and wider reaches. One in five marketers are likely to start trying new approaches, whether they’re filters photos on Instagram, stop-motion videos on Vine or simply eclectic, creative boards on Pinterest. That’s all in addition to the time-tested methods of email marketing, social media and general SEO, of course.

If this is what January looks like, it’ll sure be interesting to see what the other 11 months of the year have in store.

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