Everything I Know about Marketing I learned from Google

David Berkowitz, 360i

David Berkowitz
Senior Director of Emerging Media and Innovation

Which of my lessons resonates with you the most and why?

If I said “sex sells,” that would require too much explaining. I’ll defy superstition and go with number 13, “Your competition is broader than you think.”

One of the things I love most about getting into Google is that you’ll discover your competitors are often different from who you normally go up against. While big brands have numerous advantages over mom-and-pops, the competitive possibilities are endless with search.

Target, for example, may compete with Wal-Mart and Kohl’s day to day, but, in Google, they’ll wind up going up against thousands of houseware and clothing vendors from around the world, and the competition changes with every keyword and with every minute.

How have you (or your clients) put one or more of these lessons to good use?

My clients have put all of these lessons to good use at some point or another. One in particular made great use of number 17, “Show off your assets.” A cable network client was about to debut a TV show and had no visibility in Google for it – this was back in 2006. Not only that, but there was some potentially humiliating brand confusion by another marketer that essentially owned any searches relating to the show’s name.

A blog outreach program for the show not only brought more visibility and links to their show’s site, which brought it to the top, but the blogs covering the show became part of the content and helped push the competing brand to the no man’s land of the fifth page of search results. In this case, the other blogs became part of the campaign’s assets, which was a really powerful learning experience for the marketer and my colleagues who worked with them.

What makes Google such a unique company? Why has it been so successful?

They’ve been blessed with a simple and effective value proposition, great management, and fantastic cafeteria food. And really, maybe the fact that the name of the company translated so well into a verb that the name itself became viral.

They made a lot of smart choices early on and then could afford to buy their way into new markets. Also importantly, they could afford to make a lot of mistakes -– they’ve made many, and they will make many more, but that’s because they’re not complacent.

How does brand advertising fit into the Google ecosystem?

It depends how you define brand advertising. Let’s face it -– text ads won’t get brand marketers excited to head to the office in the morning. And yet search is a great way to introduce consumers to new brands and to establish the position of existing brands. Google has a number of offerings spanning display and video ads that are more exciting for brand marketers. But one thing they don’t have, that lesser brands like Yahoo and MySpace offer, is a homepage takeover unit; brands would kill for that, but it would also kill Google.

What impact does social media have on search and vice versa?

Social media is contributing a growing percentage of natural search results, especially since a large chunk of the proliferating content is socially-created. Search, meanwhile, is increasingly important on social sites as the content proliferates, and search is a large part of the value proposition for marketers as they learn what consumers say about them, their competitors, and their industries.

What would it take for someone to knock off Google as the leader in search?

[Austin Powers quotes.]

“One million dollars!”

“A million dollars isn’t exactly a lot of money these days.”

“Okay then… One… Hundred… BILLION DOLLARS!”

And even that may not be enough. Time will be more important than money.

I’ve been holding out for the ‘death by a thousand cuts’ possibility but I’m not as bullish on the niche engines. The biggest area Google needed to play catch-up was mobile, but with its strides in voice search, maps, and the huge coup of Android, backed by its AdMob acquisition, it may be the best positioned company for mobile marketing.

Do you think targeting ads based on religion is creepy? Why/why not?

It depends how the ads are targeted. Behavioral targeting is mainstream enough now, so if you’re spending a lot of time reading the Koran online, it’s not so creepy to get some Mecca travel deals during Ramadan.

It gets creepy when some algorithm determines that people who search for Campbell’s nutritional information, Green Day MP3s and osteoporosis diagnoses are overwhelmingly likely to be Muslim –- whether or not the algorithm’s right or wrong, it gets really creepy. If it’s right, the consumer will wonder if they inadvertently disclosed more information than they anticipated. If it’s wrong, it’s off target and is likely to offend.

When it comes to religion, there are enough opportunities to target ads contextually that religious behavioral targeting isn’t generally needed.

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