Search and Rationality

Following my recent analysis about GM’s innovative Google Pontiac television-search campaign, Bill Tancer of Hitwise (who I’ve worked with in the past) noted the blogosphere buzz and accepted the call to action — and literally Googled Pontiac. More importantly, he dug into the Hitwise database to see how national consumer search behaviors were affected. Bill says "that over the past two weeks, searches for Pontiac have increased compared with the same period last year, which indicates that this ‘search call-to-action’ may indeed be working." He also noted "that while the Pontiac home page received over 69% of the traffic on the search term ‘pontiac,’ the second highest site in volume at 2.4%, was, a Mazda site that urges users to test drive the new MX-5 Miata."

There is a gut reaction among many marketers – including myself – to point out obvious risks involved in pointing customers to third-party, uncontrolled sources of information or opinion. That concern is valid, but I can also imagine scenarios where NOT engaging actively is an even greater risk. Regardless, this case study reflects a recongintion among marketers that shoppers are becoming smarter, more savvy as their access to information increases. It reflects a world where consumers do their homework and compare and analyze lots of facts and opinions. As a consumer, this is awesome. It means that marketers are listening. It means that the best products and prices have a greater chance of prevailing because consumers have access to information that rewards the best products and prices. It’s consumer empowerment.

But this discussion of rationality leads to a key question: How does emotion fit into the search equation? As Bruce Goerlich of ZenithOptimedia, a big media-services company, recently said: "A world of rationality is a pretty dry one. In fact, recent studies on cognitive behavior indicate that we make wrong decisions when our emotional facilities are impaired. Brands are joint stories with consumers, not simply a bar of soap."

Maybe that’s why television and search can be so powerful together: the joining of emotion and rationality. More on this topic later… 

Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

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