CPG, Search, & Circular Logic
It blows my mind, because when you break it down, search can help CPG advertisers sell products and act as an extension of their overarching communications and media strategies. Yes, their products are purchased offline, but as an industry we have all shown proof positive this works.
But I still get the "I'd just rather buy more TV" -- because it's safe. Many do want to define engagement and the goal of their site, which is good, but you go in circles setting up metrics to optimize against -- only to hear "it doesn't mean they bought my product."
Come on, people, it's time to push the envelope and realize there is no standardized approach across products and categories. As Avinash Kaushik writes in a recent blog post on tracking offline conversions, "engagement is such an utterly unique feeling for each website that it will almost always have a unique definition." But that still doesn't mean that using search won't make sense.
Google has CPG research surveys aplenty that shows top search ranking increases all the brand metrics: top-of-mind awareness, unaided recall, and aided recall. Then you can layer in additional data points that we see in our research, showing that for brands with high awareness, click-through rates spike when they run TV; for brands with lower awareness, search impressions spike as a result of TV. So using TV is driving interest: consumers are trying to interact with desired brands and products. Not having visibility here is a crime -- so plan and budget for search appropriately.
We all know the lift in search performance for users previously exposed to display ads. But it gets better: we have found that when you dig into the spikes, there is a strong variation between branded versus non-branded keywords. Google-branded keywords drove over 30% more site activities when users were exposed to display (Bing saw over a 40% lift). Makes sense, but what's really interesting is that Google has almost a 20% lift for non-branded keywords (Bing was single digits and Yahoo was slightly negative). I find the spike in site activities from the non-branded keywords even more exciting, because it means the combined advertising effort is breaking through the clutter and creating interest in my clients' products -- and we are stealing search share from the competition as a result. We can even segment this further and look at unique visitors (are we driving new customers) and visitation frequency (are we reaching loyalists). It's still a tough sell, though, because many CPGs can't immediately get their hands around this.
This isn't complicated, but it does take time to organize, execute, and analyze to find the right balance. I just wish more CPG advertisers would bite, as this is awesome stuff. That said, I do think we can better prove that search can help CPGs sell products offline and better help define the purpose of their Web sites. All you need is a fairly simple exit survey that can sort by campaign and leverage some basic regression analysis to get an indication of what the site should be and what the resulting intent to purchase levels are. What's hard is, many advertisers still seem unwilling to go here.
The cry for proof has always been the hold-up, but with smart insight and analysis we have that - - so, no more circular logic. Besides Avinash Kaushik's insightful discussion on offline sales, you should also check his recent blog post on brand measurement analytics. But if you don't want to take my word or believe what Kaushik says, you have to believe MC Hammer. Check out Hammer on Analytics -- now you know this is serious.
At the end of the day, many CPG products have low price points and live in a cluttered, competitive landscape, yet are solutions to many of our daily needs and problems. The brand represents this solution and value to us as consumers. By better aligning search to the rest of the media mix, with more appropriate budgets and strategies, advertisers will only make life easier for brand advocates, while finding and creating new advocates. This will translates to offline sales. I dare any CPGs out there to work with us search specialists and give us the chance to prove it.