Everything I Know about Marketing I learned from Google

Omar Tawakol, BlueKai

Omar Tawakol

Please describe the BlueKai model.

We do not sell media, we do not serve ads. We are a data exchange that makes media a lot more effective by letting marketers find the exact consumers that are shopping for products now. We are focused on consumer intent and sell via auction. We are like a reverse search engine. With search, a consumer comes in one at a time to a number of businesses to find a product. With our model, a business comes to us saying, “I want a million different customers looking to buy our products.”

What’s the pitch to consumers?

Data companies are largely B2B [business-to-business] so [I] will speak more to that [than] B2C [business-to-consumer.

The data companies of the past all operated in the shadows and we didn’t think that was necessary. We believe we could add value to the consumer by being transparent and we have always wanted to be 100% transparent. We created a model in which every consumer can know what marketers know about them and the data is anonymous.

Consumers control the data –- they can opt out or down.This is transparency.What consumers get in return [is] free content from publishers online and, secondarily, more relevant and fewer ads. Transparency makes this work. It would not be fair to consumers to ask them to trade their data without telling them what the data is.

Why do you donate to charity instead of giving cash?

5-10 years from now, we believe that people could look at data like one looks at mileage [or] a frequent flier program. As we grow in liquidity and consumers get to really understand the data, we could shift to a mileage or cash flow program.

Why did you start the company?

[That's] ike asking why water runs down hill. [I've] sold stuff since 5 years old. [I] love data. [My] first job in data that went public and first company [I] established was a data company (Revenue Science). I saw huge opportunities and a really big gap in the marketplace. People didn’t have sufficient data to do behavioral marketing. They were focusing on the wrong type of data including what consumers were reading online vs. intent data.

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

Let the data decide and tap the wisdom of the crowds. Consumers behave all the time by the millions. They can let the marketer know what they want to buy via their intent actions. Helping the marketers find their audience is our job. But one has to let the data speak. We do not and cannot force our opinions on the data.

What’s the single most important thing you’ve learned from Google?

[It's] much easier to drive looking out the front window vs. the rear mirror. Meaning, Google has shown us that consumer intent is the most important ingredient in marketing. In the past, direct marketers had to look at what you were interested in the past. Now, Google flipped the model and consumers can tell us what they are looking for now and in the future. The key to that is consumer intent.

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