24 May Marketers advised to engage "search economy"
Madison, Wis. – There is both a new World Wide Web and a new, customer-centric world order that businesses and their branding/marketing professionals would be wise to adapt to, according to the leadoff hitters at Brandworks University 2006.
This year’s conference, which is being held at Monona Terrace, is dedicated to helping attendees create “brand fanatics” in an era where technology has helped put the consumer in charge.
Author and entrepreneur John Battelle, the lead presenter, discussed the myths and realities of this new world order. Battelle, a columnist for Business 2.0 and a visiting professor of journalism at the University of California at Berkeley, has experienced the high and lows of the technology revolution as co-founder of Wired magazine and the Industry Standard. He also is the author of The Search: How Google and its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture, and he recently started Federated Media Publishing, an online aggregator of consumer data.
Battelle said the new Internet, which he called Web 2.0, has been fueled by a “search economy” now being shaped by Google and its competitors. Battelle, who at one time feared the Internet revolution was over, said “search” has pushed a new supply of oxygen into the Internet, where user-generated content now is king and once uneconomic business models are being retried.
“You can find a lot of pockets of value that previously didn’t make sense, and the reason is search,” Battelle said. “Everyone knows what to do when a search box is in front of them.”
The younger generations, who helped convince professor Battelle that the Internet still had plenty of life, also are the reason why “search rules” and why it can work for marketers. Overall, he said, there is five times more attention paid to the Internet than there is money spent against it, but among the young there is 11 times more attention paid to the Web than there is money spend against it.
That means “the core of your future market is online,” Battelle said. It also is one of the reasons why Rupert Murdoch has invested so heavily in MySpace, an innovation that is taking off thanks to consumer interest in personally customized Web content.
Battelle also provided several illustrations of how marketing would be impacted by this search-driven future, especially when search converges with other technologies. One involved a consumer shopping for a bottle of Merlot in preparation for an important dinner. At some point, he predicted, people will use cell phones to scan a bar code on a bottle of wine, obtain information on the average price of that wine in their area, and perhaps be directed to a store where it can be purchased more affordably or with more value-added services wrapped around it.
What has happened in this example, Battelle said, is that a “search result has come back,” and it’s indicative of a shift from the dictation/interruption model to more of an invitation/conversation model.
Inviting consumers to experience a brand and make it part of their lives is exactly what businesses and their branding consultants should be doing, according to Marsha Lindsay, CEO of conference host Lindsay Stone & Briggs. She urged attendees to overcome any anxiety they may have about the new consumer-centric reality, and give their most profitable customers opportunities to customize and even co-create the brand. That way, they will not only create brand fanatics but also brand evangelists.
The brand has to translate across all media platforms, including the Internet, in order to cut through the clutter and achieve the frequency required to inspire brand fanaticism to a critical mass. But the need to first engage the customer, which is linked to the advertising industry’s understanding of subconscious and emotional drivers, has taken on a new meaning now that customers are in charge.
“Indulge consumers and their power to choose,” Lindsay advised, “and they will instruct us on their needs and wants. Let them drive us to profitability.”