What's a word worth? If we use the old saying, it's worth approximately one one-thousandth of a picture. Yet, in the advertising world of today, a word may be the most valuable commodity we have at
our disposal. In a world where the majority of dollars still go to the creation and associated costs of placing moving pictures in front of consumers, it is the words, put together in unique
combinations by consumers, that give us the greatest level of insight into behavior.
Tonight, you and millions of others will likely turn on your television and enjoy some form of entertainment. In exchange for this you will be provided with a series of advertisements for products that may or may not be relevant to your current or future state. The determination of that probable connection is based on how many people like you are watching the same program. What happens next is what starts to form the basis for the importance of words beyond pictures in today's new advertising equation.
Nearly 70% of all searches are prompted by some kind of offline media influence. In the not-too-distant past, it was commonplace to believe that digital, especially search, was going to have a lasting negative impact on more traditional forms of advertising. The data we see daily suggests that the best influencers for more query volume reside in the offline world. But the keywords speak to us. As a single signal, these words have limited impact. Some words are clear and precise comments on the state of the consumer. They tell us what consumers want, when they want it and how they want to receive it. Others are far less descriptive and give us little insight whatsoever.
But something curious happens if you start to catalog the words that may at first seem completely ambiguous. What you begin to uncover are patterns of users. Much like the television audience tuning in for "CSI" or "American Idol," we have groups of common consumers in transit toward an end outcome. The words they are using signify a check-in along the way -- and our job is to provide a navigational compass which takes them due north, toward our brands.
Over the past few years, many companies have tried to sell advertisers the notion that a true value of branding was possible via search and other forms of digital advertising as a proper response to these undefined consumers and their generic queries. More and more I'm dubious of the framing that has gone on in that regard. To suggest that search can create brand awareness and consideration is not entirely wrong, but it limits the ultimate potential of up-funnel engagement.
If our desire in that buying is exposure for the purpose of embedding in the subconscious of a consumer, then we would not measure clicks and conversion actions -- yet, we do many times. The logic behind this is sound, since it's part of a search program and search is about moving goods or facilitating services. However, the real objective in this area should be to get consumers from Point A to B or C on their journey to the end point.
With that as our stated mission, a few things change in the interaction between brand and consumers. First, we re-evaluate the objective. No longer is it about lift in brand or conversion rates, but rather it is measured in frequency of engagement, the next query, and movement down the funnel. In this way, clients start to message and create site experiences designed to move customers down an engagement path, not a purchase path.
The end outcome of such a path is still action in the desired manner -- but the benefit is, more people are kept inside the boundaries with our brand, and our investment is understood to be about linking the obscure with the desired.
There's another old saying: Actions speak louder than words. But when actions are indicated via words and in turn met with responses of value, the outcome for advertisers is more desired actions at a better ROI. And that picture is worth a great deal more for most brands.