Commentary

The Dawn Of 'Why' Marketing

In my last column, I proclaimed search to be going out of business. So what comes next? The answer lies in the question "why?"

Traditional advertising has been in the business of addressing what we know about people and their tendencies. We act based on models of what people do and what that likely means about them in mass. We buy TV to target women in specific demographics with the help of research (focus groups, panels, surveys, and gut instinct) to encourage them to try a specific shampoo that will not only clean their hair, but also create near-orgasmic reactions. Because who doesn't want a hair care product that will satisfy all needs?

With search marketing, we started to see a shift in advertising that has been well-documented. The days of being tied to push marketing based on what people watched and what those people liked were over. We had a data vault like never before; and inside the vault is the consumer's expression of intent.

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John Battelle has created a mini-digital empire off his assertion around the database on intent. Back in 2003, here's how Battelle explained it on his blog: "The Database of Intentions is simply this: The aggregate results of every search ever entered, every result list ever tendered, and every path taken as a result. This information represents, in aggregate form, a place holder for the intentions of humankind -- a massive database of desires, needs, wants, and likes that can be discovered, subpoenaed, archived, tracked, and exploited to all sorts of ends."

We are passing through the days of search marketing into the maturing age of intention marketing. In Battelle's comments, he highlights that the database will know every path taken; from this understanding comes a greater ability to engage with consumers. So, why does the rise of intention come now? It comes now because there has never been a greater opportunity for using the learnings more intelligently, to provide more relevant messages and opportunities to facilitate sharing and experiencing brands.

It comes now because the mediums of influence are converging: social, mobile and search (paid and organic), not to mention the expansion of e-CRM and the evolution of traditional mediums to digital delivery formats. In all of these channels exists an opportunity to connect in a meaningful and relevant way both to the consumer and the advertiser. These opportunities begin to merge in unique ways where advertisers can maximize their investments and see increased performance.

Look at the introduction of Bing. Bing represents some growth from our current thoughts on search marketing. At its core, it's about shortening the journey. When I sat with Microsoft's Yusuf Mehdi prior to Bing's launch, he shared the data that informed its development. What became clear is that it takes longer than you'd think for more than half of all people to get from start to finish with a search objective. There's also includes a great deal of dissatisfaction with results.

What I see on the horizon is an exchange between search engine and advertiser quite different from the typical CPC/auction model. If I am Hyundai, and two of the top three categories in the left navigation are problems and recalls, then my media interaction needs to be quite different. Paid search to drive to my opinion of the situation is far less valuable then that of a loyalist group elsewhere on the Web.

As such, these are interconnected opportunities where expressed intent, on-site engagement and alternate distribution models become the norm, not the exception. This is but one small example of how a new-age media-mix model that focuses on the attributes accessible between channels such as social, mobile, search, and assets like text, video, images and more, all come together for a more active capture of intention.

1 comment about "The Dawn Of 'Why' Marketing".
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  1. David Dillard from Temple University, June 5, 2009 at 2:38 p.m.

    While Bing may have a point about search time and dissatisfaction with
    search results, the problem is not going to be in the least solved by
    Bing. The real problem is that virtually nowhere in K-12 or college
    curriculum is learning effective searching tools and techniques taught for
    most high school or college graduates. If advanced Google search
    techniques are used and Google's specialized databases like Scholar,
    Government, Books and News Archive are used, one can find very valuable on
    point information very quickly and my discussion group and library subject
    guides are literally filled with examples. Furthermore, most people in
    the United States are blissfully unaware of state funded access 24/7 to
    public library card holders of a range of databases from services like
    First Search, EBSCOHost, ProQuest and others that provide access to source
    listings and full text articles from magazines, newspapers and academic
    journals. The problem is not getting a Bing to ping Google, it is rather
    teaching Americans of all ages information literacy skills and in
    particular a much higher level of skill in using search engines and also
    databases that are more powerful but a learning curve over search engines.

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