Commentary

How To Capitalize On Competitors' Failures In Search

Toyota Prius

It's a no-brainer that if marketers observe products or services that fail, either their own brand or a competitor's, they should call their ad agencies to reinforce their brand's position in the market. But if you don't know that a competitor's failure is also the perfect time to build search marketing keyword campaigns, I'm telling you now. In fact, it just might be the most strategic-related search campaign you can build.

Toyota had to recall 8.1 million cars due to a gas-pedal-related issue. Honda or Nissan marketers, for example, who notice Toyota's public relations nightmares should contact their search marketing agencies to make sure they bid on keywords related to the Toyota recall, Toyota gas pedal, and Prius brakes.

Marketers should buy keywords on everything closely or remotely related to Toyota's failures, according to Paul Burani, partner at Web Liquid Group, a New York-based marketing agency. "It's completely accepted in Google's trademark policies," he says. "It's an opportunity for Nissan to come in and say, our cars don't have bad brakes or gas pedals. We have a good safety record. It's an opportunity to tout statistics, or accolades given to them by the industry."

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Burani says Nissan doesn't need to go into a reporting tool like the AdWords tool to know the amount of search activity around keywords related to Toyota recalls. While the tool would help quantify the decision, most marketers are wise enough to act on that hunch.

Not specific to Toyota's recalls, Web Liquid published a study that looks at search query volumes for "customer complaints" tied to 35 different global brands, and identifies various marketing opportunities surrounding the related search activity.

The study reveals the brands most commonly searched on in Google for customer complaints, industries that attract this type of scrutiny from consumers, and how well advertisers capitalize on opportunities to extend marketing around complaint-focused search behavior.

Nissan, with 4,686, took the No. 1 spot for total worldwide search queries; followed by McDonald's, 4,663; Hewlett-Packard, 4,650; andSamsung, 4,413. Ebay, Sony, General Electronic, LG, Hyundai and Microsoft round out the Top 10 list for worldwide search queries. But when indexing the customer complaint queries to the brands' overall broad match search activity, the study tells a completely different tale.

General Motors owns the top share of customer complaint queries, with 1.48 per 1,000 queries, followed by Maytag, Burger King, McDonald's, and KFC.

With Google owning about 75% of the search market, I'm not surprised when Burani tells me Yahoo and Microsoft don't get much of Web Liquid's attention. The study done in Google AdWords demonstrates Yahoo's slow and painful exit from traditional search, as it hands the ropes to Microsoft Bing. "Bing doesn't have the head start Google has, [with] about a decade in the search game and massive amounts of investment in research and development..." he says. "It makes Google the go-to."

3 comments about "How To Capitalize On Competitors' Failures In Search".
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  1. Gosia Leszczynska from Looksmart, February 4, 2010 at 8:11 p.m.

    The strategy makes sense, of course. However, it's also important to keep in mind that bidding on competitors' terms has a detrimental impact on AdWords' Quality Score. (Quality Score is based on relevance and when Honda bids on Toyota, the AdWords system dings Honda's for lack or relevance.)

  2. Gary Walker from TopSide Media, February 4, 2010 at 10:34 p.m.

    I agree with Gosia that the article makes sense for messaging and timing, but will have some challenges in implementation and duration. Quality Score reflects the alignment of the keyword, ad text, and content of the landing page. As the article pointed out, the keyword choice would be easy enough. However, in most cases there would not be continuity in the ad text or on the website or landing page to align with the keyword. Because of the lack of alignment, the click through rate would likely be low. That, coupled with low quality score, would cause some combination of the following: higher cost per click, lower ad position on the search results page, or lack of ad serving for low performing keywords.

  3. Paul Burani from Web Liquid Group, February 8, 2010 at 2:31 p.m.

    Definitely a good point -- without a doubt, this tactic would push down on the advertiser's account-level quality score. However, given that recalls don't happen everyday, and given the size of the brands covered in our study, the relatively small scope of this very tactical effort probably would not rock the boat too much. Any automotive brand ought to have enough in their search marketing budgets that a small, focused execution like this would be a mere blip on the screen.

    I also disagree that this tactic compromises the continuity in the ad text and landing page copy. If we're bidding on the keyword "toyota recall," we are exploiting a competitor's quality failure, which means the ad text and landing pages merely need to play up our own exemplary quality: safety records, JD Power award for initial quality, etc. If it's "customer complaints" we point to some success in our own customer satisfaction record. You tie the keywords and the ad text/landing pages together, just like any other keyword buy.

    However, the points made about quality score are a very important consideration, and definitely should be raised by any client who is considering this approach.

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