SearchTHIS: Packaged Goods in Search 2

In the search world, category killers rule the revenue. Yet, as the search space has evolved so have new categories in areas we wouldn't think search would be of any benefit. Collectively, Consumer Packaged Goods (CPGs) make up one of those areas. The CPG category is heating up on the Web, and search marketing is becoming an important part of generating awareness and purchase-influencing traffic for value-based content. 

Last week I discussed how CPG brands are applying search dynamics to ubiquitous products as well as how big brands are filling destination sites with information their users want (and maybe even need) to help them use products or services, as well as contributing something to their lives.

But there is always more to this story. This week, I'll dig into the agency role for packaged goods, how to determine success in the absence of direct revenue and search integration strategies for peddlers of brand love in the everyday goods category.

Shrink-wrapped opportunity for agencies

About the same time that KLEENEX was collecting data from its True Confessions campaign in the 1920s, the makers of Bisquick were going through a similar lesson in consumer-defined product experience. Eighty or so years later, search reveals the interaction almost immediately, but some stewardship is required.

There were over 56,000 searches for the term "Betty Crocker" in the Overture network in September, 2004. "Betty" answers these queries for around 28 cents per click, while "Betty Crocker recipe" can be had for the same price.

In contrast, is bidding on the keyword "Bisquick" (a brand that carries Betty's red spoon on the box) with a "buy books" message on Overture; in Google AdWords there is a Betty Crocker paid link. There are no Overture or Google bidders on the term "Bisquick Recipe," a phrase that received over 8,000 Overture searches in September.

Why buy a term on Google and skip it on other paid search sites? CPGs have clearly woken up to search, but it shouldn't be Overture's responsibility to make certain that advertisers maintain a well-balanced plan on competitor sites like Google, Kanoodle, and FindWhat.

"There have been a lot of specialists firms made for search," says David Karnstedt, senior vice president and general manager of Direct Business. "This seems like a great opportunity for agencies to step up and integrate rather than outsource to a third party."

Simple confusion could be why an advertiser buys into one engine but skips another. As one brand marketer told me recently, confusion created by search providers, agencies and search shops all providing distinctly different solutions for the same simple problem led to the brand having no search presence at all.

Another barrier to selecting certain search terms is sheer cost of advertising for these products. "Overall when thinking of search and packaged goods, it is important to remember that many products are low cost," says Jim Schuh, a customer relationship manager at Kimberly Clark, owners of the KLEENEX and Scott brands. "In order to justify advertising or click cost, CPGs have to sell a defined number of products. You have to pay attention to the product and what it does."

Hygienic search practices

Keyword selection and content evaluation are hot areas for CPG search marketers. Part of the experience-building effort lies in how users will ultimately interpret search efforts, and the task of assigning keywords is often difficult for marketers.

"In our line of incontinence products, we carefully expand [search marketing] around adding new information in order to reach more targeted consumers while avoiding terms with multiple meanings like 'little leaks,'" says Kate Johnson, also a customer relationship manager at Kimberly Clark. "We wanted to avoid traffic from boaters, plumbers and other irrelevant traffic. We also steer clear of 'brand talk' and think like consumers: they don't search for 'absorbency;' they search for 'loss of bladder control.'"

Digging into server logs is one efficient way to find keywords; similarly, keyword suggestion tools provide some guidance. However, many CPG sites are building content to create brand love, so common sense is definitely in order.

"We looked into selling products online and it wasn't feasible. Today we are developing experiences online with rich content, like our educators' kit for the classroom, parents or caregivers," continues Johnson. "So, in the instance of a consumer seeking information about a first period or menstruation, users will find valuable information on how to help with real-life situations like this."

Boxed success metrics

Keyword selection and content evaluation are hot areas for CPG search marketers. Part of the experience-building effort lies in determining cost goals and how best to use search efforts. This is often a difficult task for marketers since packaged goods brand owners need to assign cost to the experience.

"Click traffic and site visits are a baseline metric, but in order to really understand how searchers and site visitors interact with our brands, we have begun to apply much more sophisticated metrics, based on what users are looking for on the site and where they are spending most of their time, says Johnson. "It boils down to understanding the interaction with users to determine the overall effectiveness."

ConAgra partnered with Google for some AdWords placements during National Tomato Month (October) last year. The makers of Hunt's brand ketchup used search to build membership in Hunt's Club, a value-based destination that provides -- you guessed it -- recipes and meal-planning tools, among other food resources. Hunt's measured success with new registrations on the Web site, which Google reports averaged a whopping 41 percent at an overall cost per action of 49 cents. Success metrics like these prove that you needn't be selling ketchup online to assign cost and value to click traffic.

Search can't stand on its own

When all is said and done, search is just one piece of the online or overall marketing puzzle. In the Hunt's ketchup case study, promotions included banner ads and sponsorships. And while major measured media may build awareness and the initial perspective on the brand, consumers often turn to the Web for the specifics when print and television initiatives have accomplished their missions.

"For Overture and Yahoo!, it always starts with Yahoo! branding opportunities," Karnstedt says. "There is nothing better than buying the homepage or other media ad units from the brand standpoint."

Pulling the pieces together still requires discipline in determining exactly how to prioritize budgets and keyword traffic. "Many of our brands are used every day and people know them well. So, although you may use a KLEENEX tissue when you have a cold, you're probably not going to do a general search on KLEENEX tissues", says Schuh. "Where search really benefits us is in a new product release, like KLEENEX Anti-Viral Tissue. In this instance, search becomes an important component of much larger marketing initiatives by directing consumers to more information about the new product on our brand Web site."
Hold onto your biscuits, search has arrived

When it was introduced in the 1930s, Bisquick was simply a means of cooking biscuits very quickly. KLEENEX began as a disposable cold cream remover in the 1920s. In both of these instances, consumers decided the future direction of these products, not marketers.

By the 1950s people were using Bisquick for all kinds of baking needs and a mere ten years after KLEENEX hit the market it began replacing handkerchiefs as the nasal wipe of choice. Who would have thought mixing flour and baking powder together with a tidy markup could invent an entire category? Who could have guessed that a cold cream removing wipe could have replaced handkerchiefs in the pockets of millions?

Considering the technology available at the time, brand owners of the tissue and packaged flour/baking powder combo learned from customers and began marketing to them on their terms. Today, we don't have to wait years to discover how people choose to interact with our products. We may not have intended search to be packaged goods advertising vehicle, but the users think it works just fine in that capacity.

About the Author: iMedia columnist 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, 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.

Meet Ryan at the Kelsey's ILM:4 Conference, November 3-5, 2004 and Ad:Tech, NY November 8-10