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Updated: December 5, 2010 12:56 IST

Twenty lessons from Big G

D. Murali
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The twenty ‘Googley Lessons’ to future-proof your marketing, as Aaron Goldman sums up in ‘Everything I Know about Marketing I Learned from Google’ (www.tatamcgrawhill.com) are: Respect relevancy, covet crowds, stay simple, match mindsets, anchor audiences, infrequently interrupt, covet content, try testing, tackle tracking, deify data, behold brands, utilise USPs, comprehend competition, question queries, stay sexy, associate altruism, activate assets, snatch shelf space, spin stories, and scale SEM. “In the end, Google may not be the big winner, but by learning from the Big G’s successes and setbacks, you just might be,” Goldman assures.

Make yourself relevant

The opening chapter on ‘relevancy rules’ has an insight from Avinash Kaushik, author of ‘Web Analytics 2.0,’ and cofounder of Market Motive Inc., that relevancy is perhaps the singular reason for Google’s success. In a world of companies that want to hyper-monetise every pair of eyeballs, what amazes Kaushik is that Google still continues ‘to not show ads on a vast majority of terms if it has no relevant ads or show ads that might earn less money but are more relevant to the search query by the user.’

To marketers, therefore, the challenge is to make themselves relevant so that customers and prospects can make better decisions, observes Goldman. His ‘rule of thumb’ for marketers trying to get to the top of Google and build a relevant brand is to corner the market on one particular niche. “Give off all the different signals of relevance. Make yourself indispensable to people trying to make a decision that involves your product or service. Make yourself the Google of your category. And then branch out from there.”

Tap crowd gyan

Endeavour to be a ‘platform’ to thrive in a post-media world, rather than offer a portal, reads the advice of Jeff Jarvis, author of ‘What Would Google Do?’ cited in the chapter on crowd wisdom. Marketers need to create platforms and distribute their brands throughout the community, explains Goldman. The days of telling your customers and prospects what your brand means to them are over, he reasons. “You need to invite them to tell you what your brand means. And you need to listen and respond. That’s what a platform can do.”

A simple instruction that the author provides is to break your brands down into their core assets and let consumers piece it back together in a way that is meaningful to them, because you can anticipate the fundamental needs, rather than all the needs and nuances of every customer.

“People, by their very nature, don’t want to help you. They want to help themselves. You need to find a way to help them help themselves. That’s what being a platform is all about. That’s what tapping the wisdom of crowds is all about.”

Conversing, rather than screaming

The chapter on ‘content’ explores why people have a general aversion towards advertising and finds that for every Internet marketer out there providing rich, helpful resources and incentivising people to link to them, there are ten acting like snake oil salesmen. An example of best practice given in the book is of Visa’s initiative to allow business owners to connect with one another to share experience, advice, or support.

“Small business owners are a heavily marketed-to segment. Conventional wisdom in the business-to-business space leads marketers towards the same positioning that translates to beautifully produced spots that scream, ‘We get you!’ This typically translates to ‘blah, blah, blah’ to small business owners,” elaborates Jon Raj of Cello Partners, drawing from his experience as a former vice president of advertising in Visa. Going past the rhetoric, therefore, and breaking through the clutter by not screaming but conversing, Visa could prove rather than just tell how it supports small businesses, Raj recounts.

Broader competitive sets

Of critical interest should be the thirteenth chapter, titled ‘Your competition is broader than you think,’ where Rishad Tobaccowala, the chief strategy and innovation officer at Vivaki, is quoted for his views on the newer phenomenon of ‘broader competitive sets,’ brought on by the digital world plus increasing mobile computing power.

Stating that once something becomes digital, the borders between industries collide, Tobaccowala sees Apple as the poster child for this trend. Its iPhone, for instance, makes the company ‘a competitor to not just Microsoft and Sony but also Nintendo (gaming), Nikon (camera), Google (apps means less search), Timex (why own a watch), Nokia (phone), Garmin (mapping), etc.” If you consider the Mac, Safari, iPhoto, Final Cut, iPod, Apple TV, iTunes, iPad, and the rest of the Apple suite, the competition is virtually endless, adds Goldman.

The book mentions Tobaccowala’s opinion that Apple, along with Google and Amazon, are the companies best positioned to be dominant in the digital world today; and his forecast that in the future these three companies will increasingly compete with each other and, between them, dominate share of wallet.

Query lessons

Search can be a cornucopia of wisdom to marketers, one learns from the chapter devoted to query. Sample this snatch from Quentin George, the chief digital officer at Mediabrands: “The most evolved way of thinking about search is how we can create a topography of keywords – a map of how customers see my business. What types of words and what themes do people experience with my brand.” George’s counsel hence is that search gives you explicit intent – how people really see your brand.

Notes Goldman that search query data can be a great barometer for audience analysis, aided by tools such as comScore Marketer, Compete.com, or Microsoft Advertising Intelligence. From search data, you can glean demographic intelligence, be it about age or gender, household income or location. “Mapping your search audience to your traditional target audience can shed some light on whether you’re talking to your best prospects – or even who your best prospects really are.”

An example given in this context is of Frito-Lay, about how in 2008 the company was targeting affluent moms looking for healthy snack alternatives such as its new brand, True North. “However, search data for potato chip-related queries showed a skew toward minority females with low household income. For Frito-Lay to make its traditional customers aware of its new snack lines, it changed the tone and placement of its advertising toward a more urban audience.”

Doing good

In what may seem contrary to common perception, the author avers that altruism sells. As proof, he speaks about Restaurant.com, which ‘recently demonstrated that sometimes the worst of times is the best time to do good.’ The tale begins in October 2008, amidst the US recession and global financial crisis, when Tony Bombacino, Restaurant.com’s CMO, and his team came up with ‘Feed it Forward,’ recognising that many people would not be able to enjoy the gift of giving during the holiday season or would have to shorten their lists.

The company created a Web site that allowed people to give away three $10 Restaurant.com gift certificates for free every day for 30 days, narrates Goldman. “In the first year, more than $4 million in Restaurant.com gift certificates were given away. The promotion generated a good deal of media coverage, which Bombacino estimates at more than 20 million in free impressions between Thanksgiving and Christmas 2008.” The next year, the estimate of PR impressions was 60 million, across TV, print, radio, and the Web.

Master intent

Towards conclusion is a chapter on ‘future-proofing,’ where you read about the possibility of ‘personalised intent’ being a given, with intent fully supported from end to end. “Imagine if there were an app that could keep my master intent in mind for the entire process. It would know what my end goal was, would be tailored to understand my personal preferences, and would use search to go out and gather the required information,” postulates Gord Hotchkiss of Enquiro.

The example of ‘master intent’ he shares with the author is of deciding to take a trip to Italy to do some cycling for his fiftieth birthday; and of how, immediately, his brain starts to break that intent down into tasks such as finding airfare, a place to stay, a place to rent a bike, things to do, routes to take and so on.

Hotchkiss lays out two options before Google, in such a scenario: Become a utility, providing the underlying search functionality to other apps, or become a provider of platforms and apps, thus vertically integrating the experience. Hopefully, what the consumers stand to enjoy can be ‘appy days,’ as the section title indicates.

Valuable read for the Net savvy marketers.

**

Tailpiece

“Last month we were worrying about the idle capacity in our medical transcription vertical, but things turned bright…”

“After you downsized?”

“No, after we got a huge order from the taxman to transcribe a tonne of tapes!”

**

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