In order to take advantage of the opportunities paid and organic search offers CPG advertisers, CPG companies need to recognize how the web works and adapt their mindset to the realities of the new marketplace. Search is not a mass medium in which to broadcast a message the same way television is.
When consumers turn to search engines, they are asking a question in the form of a keyword search. Nothing more, nothing less. They are focused on performing a task to address a want, need or desire. They have a problem and it is up to the advertiser to anticipate the intent behind the query and find a way to answer it. A search ad does not brand. A positive experience from the time a person performs a search, clicks on an ad and accomplishes the task at hand results in a positive brand experience, elevates the perception of the brand and may make the consumer more included to purchase the products of a given CPG company. Unfortunately it is difficult to conduct research into this whole process and everyone except the CPG company benefits when search ads are blasted out into the maketplace and success is measured based on clicks and impressions.
Lets say a company sells whole grain pasta. If the consumer searches for whole grain pasta, then it would make sense for the CPG company to advertise on keywords like “whole grain pasta” and take that opportunity to introduce their whole grain pasta to the consumer, present them with some recipes on how to make great pasta dishes and then present them with a coupon to get the consumer to make a purchase. The Intenet is a SALES medium, not a marketing or branding medium.. That is not 100% correct, the banner or search ad is generally not a good branding tool unless it is relevant to what the consumer wants to accomplish at the time the ad is presented to them. Search can target a consumer when they are actively looking to perform a task, banner advertising can not.
Have you ever noticed that new metrics have to be invented in order to justify most display (banner) advertising programs online? People are blind to banners and they don’t generally respond to them. Media programs are often behaviorally targeted so that the ads are shown to people who have already been to the website. In order to justify the expense of the banner programs, sales are credited to the program when people view an ad 30-90 days before they make a purchase. It generally doens’t even mater if the person saw the ad. If the ad was at the bottom of a page that the consumer loaded and a cookie was set, then the banner campaign is credited with the sale.
Lets go back to search. In order for CPG companies to take maximum advantage of the power of search, they need to embrace a different perspective. While demographics and psychographics are fine for mass media like print and TV advertising, they are generally not available in search advertising campaigns and don’t matter much anyway.
In order to make all their marketing and advertising efforts work and sell more stuff, CPG companies need to approach marketing in the following way:
Perform the standard market research that incorporates demographic and psychographic data. This can help determine who the audience is, how much income they may have and help identify the different personas the marketing and advertising campaigns must cater to in order to develop collateral to the people research shows are most likely to buy the product.
Perform keyword research to see what consumers are looking for and how they express their needs and wants. Keyword research can also provide direction for creative concept development. Are people looking for office comedy, tarot card readings, fortune tellers, grocery lists, specific types of games, recipes, or other types of entertainment or online applications?
Once there is an idea of who the consumer is likely to be, it may be possible to infer what types of activities, applications or entertainment these people may be interested in and what types of creative concepts can be developed into applications that this audience will search for.
The name of the product and the language used to describe the product can also be based on the keyword research conducted.
When the site is developed, there is now hard (or at least harder than some agency creative type wild ideas) data on what the consumer is interested in, who the consumer will be, what types of entertainment or applications the consumer may be interested in and how they will search for and describe the product when they search.
Before any designer touches anything, before any programmer sets out to develop a site and strikes the first key to develop code, the site features and architecture need to be laid out to mirror the way the consumer if likely to think about and search for the product to be sold.
Now, when the site launches, the site will naturally integrate with a paid search campaign and if the developers are technically competent and can buld a search friendly site, the site will have a much better chance of getting organic search traffic and a PPC search campaign will snap in place easily and quickly.
Once the campaign is up and running, the focus of optimization will be optimizing the website performance in tandem with the PPC search campaign. Are consumers taking steps on the website that will lead them to a purchase? Which keywords are performing best? Where is there additional marketplace demand that new content and site features can be created to fulfill? Where do people drop out of the site and why do they drop out? What site elements result in more site registrations, more interaction with the site, more recipe downloads, more sharing of content, more printing of coupons?
“Integration” has become a big buzzword in online marketing and advertising and the type of integration everyone writes about and focuses on doesn’t make any sense. Everyone is focused on “integrating” their search and media (banner) campaigns.
There are two types of integration that need to happen:
Site content and features need to “integrate” with the way people search.
Creative concepts on the website need to integrate with the look and feel of the website to present a consistent and relevant message.
If this all sounds like a lot of work, it is. Welcome to the Internet. If you are in CPG and you want the online channel to work for you (i.e. you want to sell more stuff) it is time to start doing things differently. You may need to shake up your organization, your agency selection and adopt a different mindset. Stop taking the “studies” and “articles” you see from the major Internet marketing publications as facts and THINK. These are press releases and “studies” designed to get you to flush more money down the toilet in the name of “branding”.
At minimum, track your search campaigns beyond clicks and impressions and measure what people actually DO on your website(s). Once you take that first step, the light will start to go on and you may start to think differently.