Even More On: Everything I Need to Know About Marketing I Learned From Google
1. Relevancy rules (Apple)
2. Tap the wisdom of the crowds (Doritos, Threadless)
3. Keep it simple, stupid (Ford)
4. Mindset matters (Zappos)
5. Be where your audience is (Obama)
6. Don't interrupt (Best Buy)
7. Act like content (American Express)
8. Test everything (Airwalk, Sesame Street, Blues Clues)
9. Track everything (Kaplan)
10. Let the data decide (Yours Truly)
11. Brands can be answers (Lake Side Café)
12. Your USP is critical (Milk, Obama)
13. Your competition is broader than you think (Global CPG)
14. You can learn a lot from a query (Pier 1 Imports)
15. Sex sells (Bing, Anyone That's Used Ice Cubes In Ads)
More than just tidbits to maximize SEM programs, these are principles that can be applied to all facets of marketing. Of course, the irony in all this is that Google is a company that's proudly spent very little on advertising. Accordingly, perhaps the most important lesson of them all is that marketing is so much more than just advertising.
Today, I'll close this series with five more lessons learned from Google about marketing. Fans of this topic need not fret, I'm actually working on expanding this thread into a full-fledged book. And I'll look to spin off this theme into my next column.
16. Altruism sells. In my last column I talked about how a dash of sex appeal can be a great ingredient in the marketing mix. Let's not forget that, at the other end of the spectrum, good old-fashioned altruism can also be a great brand attribute to play up. Google -- with its unofficial motto of "do no evil" and philanthropic efforts through Google.org -- has successfully created an image of "serving the greater good," allowing it to get the benefit of the doubt in the court of public opinion -- if not the EU and DOJ -- when it comes to various privacy and monopoly issues.
Today, there's no shortage of marketers trying to hitch their wagon to the altruistic horse (read: feel-good fad) of "going green," but GE is one company that jumped on the sustainability bandwagon well before green became the new black with its ecomagination initiative.
17. Show off your assets. No, this is not a subset of "sex sells." We're talking about digital assets here. About three years ago, I sat in a meeting at the Google Chicago office and listened to Jim Lecinksi, who now heads up U.S. sales across key verticals, preach about the importance of brands unlocking all their assets -- video, images, PDFs, etc. -- and making them available for consumption online. A strong belief in the value of digital assets, no matter how old, is why Google started scanning books and just bought reCAPTCHA.
For marketers, each and every asset in your portfolio can help your brand get exposure on Google and other engines. So take a cue from Time Warner with the LIFE magazine photo archive -- go dig through the vault and start shaking what your momma, er... predecessors, gave you
18. The more shelf space, the better. We've all seen the research that shows a lift in clicks and sales when PPC and SEO listings appear on the same SERP. And eye-tracking studies have shown us the power of the golden triangle -- although universal search has brought on the advent of the golden sprinkle. The bottom line with Google is that the more of the SERP you can penetrate with favorable brand messaging, the better off you are.
Of course, in the CPG world, brands have long "optimized" their presence at point-of-purchase through couponing and negotiating for eye-level placement and end-caps at retail. However, just like Google polices PPC affiliates to prevent one brand from owning the SERP, supermarkets would never let, say, General Mills claim the entire cereal section. So the key is to get crafty and try and leverage partnerships to increase your footprint. In CPG, this means cross-promoting with other brands to get your logo on their box, prize in their contest, etc. In SEM, you can create co-op campaigns, as Electrolux and Lowe's did, to garner more of that precious SERP space.
19. Make your company a great story. This one comes courtesy of Dave Chu from Eton Corporation who sent me a note through the MediaPost community in response to my first column. Dave wrote, "From using goats to mow their lawns, putting solar panels on their buildings to the famous 'Do no evil' motto, Google is a company of stories that are relevant to their audience and these times." I couldn't have said it better myself, but I'll try...
How many "human interest" stories have you read about the perks Google gives its employees? And did you get caught up in the fun facts and timeline laid out for Google's 10th birthday celebration and its accompanying Project 10 to the 100th? There's no question Google has become one of the world's top brands not only because it creates great products but because it's created a great story.
Zappos is a perfect example here. Just as everyone knows that Google was started by Larry Page and Sergey Brin as part of a Stanford research project that focused on the power of back-links, everyone knows that Zappos was started as a shoe company that was fanatical about customer service and corporate culture before growing into a leading internet retailer serving multiple categories.
20. Don't rely on SEM alone. This final one comes from Amy Oliver of Utah Foster Care Foundation, who commented on my original column, saying, "If Google is all you do, you'll still be wondering why nobody knows about you. It's the same with traditional media. If you only choose one medium, you won't make a true difference in your marketing results."
Google certainly hasn't relied solely on SEM to drive usage of its products -- although I've always wondered about who manages Google's in-house campaigns (especially after seeing PPC ads for Google Radio Advertising after it had already shut down that service). Nor has Google relied solely on SEM to drive revenue -- although its forays into print and radio were unsuccessful, and YouTube and Google TV have yet to claim significant ad budgets.
Bing is the ironic case study here. In its never-ending quest to out-Google Google, Bing reportedly earmarked $80-$100 million for overly-dramatic TV spots and hokey sponsorships, in addition to lining Google's coffers with a YouTube brand channel and poorly targeted Google PPC campaigns. What does it all add up to? Well, per Nielsen, Bing just cracked double-digit search share. So maybe this was a Google lesson well-learnt.
The Hits Keep Coming
Stay tuned for my next column -- Everything I Need to Know About Product Development I Learned from Google -- where I'll flesh out these five lessons...
1. When in doubt, crowdsource
2. Leverage the economics of free (another one courtesy of Dave Chu)
3. Open source is the best source
4. It doesn't have to be perfect
5. Don't lose the signal (heeding the advice of Max Kalehoff to learn from things Google did wrong)