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Searching for brand answers

The results of a new study, published in “Online Search Can Be Powerful for CPG Branding,” (MediaPost.com) show that online search can help build consumer packaged goods brands.

Here are the notable findings of the survey (a difference of ten percentage points is usually considered significant):
  1. Nearly half (47%) of the 93.7 million unique site visitors to food product sites were generated by search. Search was responsible for 60% of baby product sites' total unique visitors, 27% of personal care visitors, and 23% of household product visitors.
  2. Searchers were somewhat, but not terribly much, more motivated by wanting product information or help than non-searchers (73% vs. 58%). Searchers were also more motivated by wanting help with a purchase decision than non-searchers (64% vs. 44%). (It appears that there is some overlap between these two motivations in the "help" area, but this is not explained by the article.)
  3. Non-searchers were more likely than searchers to visit sites for the purpose of obtaining special offers/promotions (59% vs. 47%)
Al Ries, the brand expert, is quoted in the article saying that search “is not a strategy, it's a tactic….In general, a company needs to create awareness of a new category by other means--generally PR--before consumers are going to search for that particular category.”

I am not sure why Ries emphasizes PR to the exclusion of advertising and marketing tactics, but think he has a point when he says that marketers should not think “that the Internet is the answer to (all) their branding problems.” He reminds us that Anheuser-Busch spent millions of dollars to build Bud.TV when “the typical Bud drinker is down at the tavern watching the World Series.”

I also think Procter & Gamble Search Innovation Manager Randy Peterson, also quoted in the article, has a point when he says that the research shows search is more valuable than just to serve as a tool for direct response marketing. Searchers are motivated consumers, and it makes sense to cater to them with more targeted branding initiatives that inform, educate, and assist in their making wise product decisions.

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