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3 Things Content Marketers Should Learn From the Super Bowl by Sam Colt

By Penry Price, VP of Global Sales, LinkedIn Marketing Solutions

This article originally appeared in AdWeek.

If football players and marketers have one thing in common, it's that their biggest day of the year comes in February: the Super Bowl. And while the outcome of the game didn't ultimately matter for the brands that advertised there (sorry, Panthers), as a content marketing opportunity—a chance for brands to communicate a clear, crisp message to a massive audience—the stakes for the Super Bowl couldn't have been higher.

Ads that pull on our heartstrings or make us laugh can live in our collective memory for years. They have a much longer shelf life than your average TV spot. Super Bowl ads also serve as a barometer of what the public is feeling that year. This year's ads have leaned on uplifting, inspirational messages and self-aware humor to catch viewers' attention.

Ultimately, content marketing is about the long game. Brands that best capitalize on the Super Bowl spend a significant amount of time and money planning and refining their messages to capture your attention—and that's just the beginning. Super Bowl ads are a springboard for continuous engagement through the sales funnel. Brands want to reach you while you're watching the game as one touch point in a much longer journey.

As it has in the past, this year's Super Bowl offered plenty of marketing lessons. New advertisers and veteran sponsors alike, both consumer and enterprise companies, showed us how marketers can create all-star messaging in 2016 and beyond as content plays an increasingly large role in the sales and marketing landscapes.

Here are my three biggest marketing takeaways from Super Bowl 50:

Refine your message:  Audiences don't always notice, but there's a tremendous amount of message refining that goes into any Super Bowl ad (or any piece of content, for that matter). Testing out different messages is vital to producing the best content, which is why Avocados From Mexico spent so much time on it. The Avocados team tested four different commercials in October, some containing celebrities, before landing a spot that has an alien guide leading a tour through a museum of Earth's supposed greatest hits (including actor Scott Baio). Companies like Avocados From Mexico know that the Super Bowl is a pricey piece of a larger content strategy, so it's best to take your time
and nail the story—and the humor.

Nostalgia works: Pokemon commissioned its Super Bowl ad to commemorate its 20th anniversary, reminding fans who may now be adults about the joy they experienced playing its games. Like many Super Bowl advertisers, Pokemon released an extended cut of its ad ahead of the game. The spot encourages viewers to "Train on," a nod to developing Pokemon to maturity and strength. Signaling the start of a larger campaign, Pokemon will relaunch some of its original GameBoy games on Feb. 27, when the franchise officially turns 20. Pokemon's ad is plainly designed to remind viewers of their childhood and create positive brand associations. It's a strategy that could pay off as the company looks to a new generation of tech-savvy kids as fans.

Build momentum: SunTrust was a newcomer to Super Bowl advertising this year. The regional bank wanted to set itself apart from the humor and celebrity cameos we've come to expect with an uplifting, galvanizing message—take control of your finances. The spot kicked off an integrated campaign that will air through February and beyond. For example, SunTrust is also running a longer version of the ad online and will continue its TV advertising campaign beyond the Super Bowl. What sets SunTrust apart, beyond its extended campaign, is that the ads aren't featuring a particular product, but are intended to develop credibility around financial health.

Both consumer and enterprise Super Bowl advertisers offered plenty of valuable lessons for marketers this year, demonstrating the thought and planning that goes into the content we experience every day. While the Super Bowl is one of the greatest content opportunities in existence, it's ultimately one step in a larger process. No company can sustain momentum from a single Super Bowl spot.

Whether or not they advertised in the Super Bowl, companies big and small stand to gain from taking a closer look at the advertising bonanza that comes along every February. Like the game itself, the marketing takeaways are universal—there's something for everyone.

Above all, the Super Bowl proves that great content always pays off, whether you're kicking off or in the end zone.

Penry Price is vp of global sales for LinkedIn's Marketing Solutions business.

What My Three Years At Netflix Taught Me About Scaling A Startup by Sam Colt

By Ariel Tseitlin, Partner, Scale Venture Partners

This article originally appeared in Fast Company.

I joined Netflix at the beginning of 2011, just as the company was making the transition from operating in the data center to the public cloud. My job was to help build out Netflix's cloud platform and manage streaming operations. It was an incredible three-year experience seeing the company scale its people, culture, and technology.

In my life since then as an investor, I still apply what I learned in my time at Netflix to companies big and small. These lessons I picked up there might not save your life, but they might save your business.

1. BUILD A HIGH PERFORMANCE CULTURE

What separates winning companies from their competitors often has nothing to do with the products or services they offer but with the cultures they build around employees. Netflix's, of course, is renowned. One thing Netflix knows well is that a company's ability to execute depends hugely on culture, which comes either top-down from the founding team or through formalized process and training.

As I consider companies to invest in, one thing I look for is a culture that encourages results and healthy competition. That's a no-brainer. But less appreciated is that culture takes different forms even while emphasizing the same goals, like transparency and high performance. If I see a company that’s heavily compartmentalized or relies on a command-and-control structure, that’s a red flag.

There’s no question that companies known for strong work cultures are outperforming their peers. What’s more, when these companies unveil a new policy, others take notice. Mark Zuckerberg’s recent paternity leave, for instance, has raised the issue of work-life balance for tech and non-tech companies alike. Netflix unveiled its own unlimited paid parental leave policy last year. Issues like these have become powerful recruiting and retention tools for tech companies, which is why some of the most prominent ones are following suit.

2. PLAN FOR SUCCESS

Building something without planning for how it will work when it gets popular is one of the easiest ways to not only kill off a great product, but sometimes the company itself. During my time at Netflix, we were driven to build for scale by necessity—you knew that if something was successful it would be used by millions of people.

Imagining our products at scale influenced the way we thought about building the company as a whole. The choices you make at the beginning of development matter when you go from 50,000 to 50 million users, so planning for mass adoption from the start helps companies grow rapidly and at the same time keeps them ahead of the curve, instead of rebuilding features to handle new users.

What's more, there’s little incremental cost to building for scale. It’s easier to spend 20% more while you’re developing the core product than spending 100%–200% more once your decisions are set in stone. For developers, an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure (and then some).

How your startup handles growth will ultimately determine how large it becomes. Automation and self-service tools and processes enable startups to scale efficiently instead of becoming victims of their own success.

3. MAKE MANY MISTAKES, JUST KEEP MOVING

Tech companies get upended by newer startups every day. The companies with staying power have learned how to disrupt themselves instead of letting another company push them into obsolescence. Ultimately, the best way to avoid getting disrupted is to maintain a high rate of innovation and move quickly. Mistakes are a natural consequence of speed. If you aren't screwing up, you won't find out how much faster you could be going.

Netflix made waves in 2011 when it announced plans to spin off its DVD business into a new company called Qwikster. This decision—coupled with a new pricing model—didn’t sit well with customers. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings eventually apologized for moving the company too quickly and abandoned plans for Qwikster.

The knee-jerk reaction after such a mistake would be to slow down in order to prevent future errors. But there’s no way to do that without stifling innovation, and what impressed me about Netflix was that even in the aftermath of those decisions, the rate of innovation never slowed down.

Don’t avoid mistakes at the expense of innovating as quickly as you need to. One of your competitors will come out with a better product if you don’t move fast enough—and by then, it could already be too late.

4. LOOK BEYOND THE CAP TABLE

Netflix taught me more about building a startup than I ever learned at business school. Founding a startup is a challenge like no other, but there are things you can do to make it easier and increase your odds of success. Financials aside, what sets Netflix apart from other companies that have emerged out of the latest tech boom is its dedication to employee culture and shared values, its ability to design products for mass adoption, and the energy it spends anticipating what could disrupt its business model.

These lessons aren’t specific to cloud computing—they apply to startups as a whole. As an investor, I perk up when founders mention these differentiators. They just might signal the next meteoric tech startup.

Ariel Tseitlin is a partner at Scale Venture Partners focused on investments in the cloud and security industries. He currently sits on the board of directors at Agari and CloudHealth Technologies. Previously, Ariel was director of Cloud Solutions at Netflix.