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Search and the Brand


Last week, on February 22, Yahoo! Inc. presented its first Search Light Award for a campaign that represented the best out of metrics experience, if you will. The single day Search: Thinking Outside the Funnel Summit was a provocative journey into the minds of marketing beyond the daily grind of instant gratification metrics.

The industry has been buzzing about next generation metrics for some time. This was, however, the first time an award has been given for going beyond the search with a showcase of these efforts. From Miller Beer Runs to the Honda Element, agencies showcased their best in capturing the public's interest with search marketing.

The day was a win for all on many fronts. An opening keynote got the audience thinking, industry pundit panelists probed and evaluated and the audience voted on its favorite campaign. There was certainly a declared winner of the day, but everyone wins if this line of marketing thought continues.

Of course, there is quite a bit to consider when venturing out to the world of beyond the funnel success.

Don't underestimate search

David Verklin, CEO of Carat North America reprised his Advertising Week "My Favorite Future" speech with a bit of a search twist for the event. Verklin asked audience members to envision their own favorite futures while describing his own favorite future scenario.

Verklin described the web as the center of the marketing universe with search as the driver. He noted that all advertising in all media reverberate in search and that the behavior of search is the megatrend in marketing.

While pointing out that it is hard to overstate the impact of search, Verklin cited the December 2004 comScore study that revealed 92 percent of consumer electronics or computer purchases took place offline. Though the study was category specific, the idea of integrating offline purchase behavior into the cross media channel integration strategy was a good way to start the day's discussion.

Honorable discharge

A few marketers not up for consideration got solid mentions. Ironically, this was also the only mention of a specialized search firm. The theme of the day was thinking beyond the purchase funnel, and though these were campaigns not necessarily designed to sell more products, they certainly managed to do so.

Performics' recent campaign for HP was recognized for its success. The initiative included goals of growing brand affinity via bidding on non-product specific keywords. The initiative reportedly saw click volume increase 45 percent, while total transactions increased 65 percent.

NeoSearch's Sprint initiative was recognized for multi-channel integration, while the GM Planworks group was mentioned for its efforts in the Pontiac Solstice launch. The Pontiac launch may not have won an award, but any campaign that can sell 1,000 cars in 41 minutes is worth a bit more than a nod in my world.

Have no beer, will travel

Miller's Beer Run game was a big winner with users but lost favor with industry panelists Jon Fine, Media Columnist from Business Week, and Greg Sterling, program director of the Kelsey Group. The Beer Run game was removed long before its apparent expiration date as surfers called out for the site after it had been taken down via the blogosphere.

For the un-indoctrinated, Miller's Beer Run initiative included an interactive gaming destination that was closely tied to television creative of the same theme. What you may not know is that the campaign was a case study in using every aspect of search-- not just the sponsored listings.

Agency.com illustrated how blogs in search results contribute to the greater campaign good. Additionally, The Miller Beer Run illustrated how focused optimization efforts combined with public relations effect and deliver the goods with strong natural search results.

The Miller Beer Run didn't win a Yahoo Search Light, but in my book it was the best example of how powerful search can be when an agency thinks beyond the bid.

Crabby creative wins award

Another very popular campaign that won cute, warm and fuzzy points with the audience was the Honda Element launch. RPA's campaign was part of a media blitz that included television and a website that sent visitors on a journey to interact with a talking crab, possum and lizard, to name a few.

The search strategy included focusing on buying cheap keywords that one might not necessarily associate with a car launch media blitz. Bidding on the keyword "possum" is a lot cheaper than bidding on the term "automobile" -- or even "Honda Element" -- but the two are not mutually exclusive.

At press time the Yahoo search listings and bids for the terms tell quite a story.

Top placement, keyword "possum"

See the Possum in its Element
Play a game with the Element and possum on an adventure-filled island.
(Advertiser's Max Bid: $0.10)

Top placement, keyword "Honda Element"

Shop for a Honda Element at Honda.com
Compare the Element to other vehicles. Request a quote today.
(Advertiser's Max Bid: $1.15)

According to RPA, the search portion of the Element budget just made it into double digit percentage points, yet it accounted for nearly 40 percent of responses. It is worth mentioning that other bidders on the word "possum" included pest control peddlers and those selling possum T-shirts. The campaign generated more than 100 million impressions with very low click rates, which raises the issue of relevance in search advertising.

If the search site uses a bidding system that penalizes advertisers for low click rates (both Yahoo and Google have such rules, the latter a bit harsher than the former) listings may be lowered or even removed for poor response. 

It wasn't too long ago that I suggested a special dispensation for brands in product launch or buzz generators, and it may be time to re-visit that thought.

My favorite future

Since you asked -- and in case you were wondering, Mr. Verklin -- my favorite future would include having your job. I don't wish you any ill will, mind you-- that is to say I hope you enjoy a long a fruitful future at your professional venue of choice. However, should the opportunity present itself, I would be interested in the guiding spirit portion of your job. 

I suppose one could argue having a weekly voice in the business would qualify as guiding spirit, but I really can't write about the kind of things that I think people really want to read about.

For example, my favorite future involves a technological interaction for the masses that does not require a degree in computer science to appreciate. My future is free of malcontents that abuse the notion of personalization by robbing an unsuspecting public with thieving technology. My favorite future also has brands that you may never have heard of winning awards for excellence and innovation.

For now, I will settle for a favorite future that includes search as a barometer of human behavior. A future that allows brands to recognize the value of the search to brand action and treat it with the appropriate consideration. Brand metrics are not beyond the funnel-- said funnel is actually a great deal larger than most of us think.

iMedia Search Editor Kevin Ryan's current and former client roster reads like a "who's who" in big brands; Rolex Watch, USA, State Farm Insurance, Farmers Insurance, Minolta Corporation, Samsung Electronics America, Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Panasonic Services, and the Hilton Hotels brands, to name a few. Ryan believes in sound guidance, creative thought, accountable actions and collaborative execution as applied to search, or any form of marketing. His principled approach and staunch commitment to the industry have made him one of the most sought after personalities in online marketing. Ryan volunteers his time with the Interactive Advertising Bureau, Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization, and several regional non-profit organizations. Ryan is Managing Partner at Kinetic Results.

Email Registration
With 96 percent of internet users having access to email in 2005, one could assume that nearly everyone online is currently able to be reached via this communication. Often times, the first interaction a voter has with a candidate is through the campaign websites. By allowing those first-time visitors, as well as loyalists that continuously visit the site, easy access to the campaign email registration form, each candidate is able to begin a permission-based dialogue with each of those registrants.

Three key elements of the email registration process:

1. Email Sign-Up Call Out -- Clearly promote the email sign-up for visitors. Distinguishing this email sign-up from full website/campaign registration or "Join the Team" is imperative to attracting undecided voters. Both Sen. McCain's and Sen. Obama's campaign sites allow first-time visitors to land on a page that clearly states the campaign tagline, with an image of the candidate with his family and a quick email registration form. McCain's website has the added ability to convert these email subscribers to Team Members on the second page of the registration process.


2. Registration Form -- Make this process as simple as possible; collect only the necessary data to begin an email dialogue. Only email address and ZIP code (used for geographic segmenting) is needed. There were a few campaigns that have confusing and cumbersome email sign-up processes. Both Gov. Romney and Sen. Clinton's campaign sites employ landing pages for first-time visitors but use the language "Join Our Team" as the email registration call-out and have extensive forms asking more questions than necessary.


3. Welcome Email -- Send each email registrant an initial welcome email immediately following registration. Not only is this a best practice for deliverability for future emails, it also allows for an immediate touchpoint while the candidate is on top of the registrant's mind. Surprisingly, Sen. Romney's campaign was the only one that deployed a welcome-style email after registering for each candidate's email program. This could be because it was such a strenuous registration process.


The Results
After examining the email programs and grading each candidate, 24 total points equaling a perfect score, no campaign's email program received a passing grade.

Here is the final tally:

While Sen. McCain scored the highest of the six with 16 points, each candidate's campaign missed multiple opportunities toward full email optimization. As the election steamrolls through the summer toward Election Day in November, each of the remaining candidates needs to critically look at his or her campaign and make sure each marketing effort, including email, is being maximized to its full potential.


1. Direct Marketing Association (2007)
2. Scarborough (2005)
3. JupiterResearch "Maturation of Email: Controlling Messaging Chaos Through Centralization" (2007)
4. E-Mail Sender and Provider Coalition and Ipsos (Dec 2007)
5. Jupiter Research (2007)
6. EmailLabs (2006)
7. Datran Media Research, "The 2007 Email Marketing Survey: Looking Forward" (2007)
8. Email Experience Council (2007)
9. Sharpe Partners (Jan 2006)

Brent Rosengren is director of client services for BrightWave Marketing. Read full bio.

Kevin Ryan founded the strategic consulting firm Motivity Marketing in April 2007. Ryan is known throughout the world as an interactive marketing thought leader, particularly in the search marketing arena. Today's Motivity is a group of...

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