Everything I Know about Marketing I Learned From Google by Aaron Goldman was recently published, and I had a chance to sit down with him to ask some questions about the book.
Shawn: Google can teach us a lot about how to market effectively, but are there any examples from Google where we can learn from their failures, too?
Aaron: Absolutely. Chapter #9 is Track Everything and I cover a lesson that Google learned the hard way about how important it is to capture signals about how your marketing is working.
When Google launched its print platform, it had all these fancy ways of trying to measure performance of print ads — unique URLs, 800 numbers, even a 2D bar code. This was great for advertisers to see if people actually responded but Google itself couldn’t track these responses.
With search and display ads, Google can not only track if an ad was delivered but it can see clicks and, in some cases, conversions. These signals are crucial for Google to tweak which ads get delivered, in what positions, at what times, etc. Google didn’t have these signals in print (nor audio ads, for that matter) and that’s why it had to shut it down.
The lesson for marketers is that it’s not enough to just know that your ad ran as scheduled. You need to track responses as far down the funnel if you can and always look for new ways to smoke out signals.
Shawn: Do you think Google’s tactics can also be applied well to strictly brick & mortar operations?
Aaron: Definitely. In my last example about tracking, it may be more difficult to connect the dots between an online interaction and in-store purchase, but it can be done. In my book, I talk about how comScore uses panels to link offline purchases to online activity.
And, even if a brick and mortar isn’t doing any online advertising, it can (and must!) still track performance of all marketing efforts, even If that means just asking, “How did you hear about us?” at the register.
Many of my other lessons have more obvious implications to the offline world. Keep it simple, stupid. Altruism sells. Etc. These are tried and true marketing principles that can be applied to businesses of any size and scale.
Shawn: What is the single, most important thing we can take away from Google’s marketing?
Aaron: Oy vey. That’s like asking me which of my children I like best.
I guess I’d say the most important thing that Google taught us is that marketing does not just mean advertising. Google spends very little on paid advertising (Super Bowl commercial notwithstanding). Rather, it finds unique and innovative ways to earn brand affinity, usage and loyalty.
In Chapter 19, I preach about making your company a great story. Google gets tons of great PR every day just by being, well, Googley. Great employee perks. Elaborate April fools pranks. Goats mowing lawns. It just goes to show you don’t need to spend money on ads to get noticed.
Shawn: You talk about how a company should distribute their brand everywhere… don’t you think that could be a wasted effort for brands that already know their audience?
Aaron: Knowing your audience isn’t enough. You have to reach them in their environment and engage them.
In Chapter 17, “Show off your assets,” I talk about breaking your brand down into bits that can be distributed everywhere. But the key is that the “bits” you create are relevant, meaningful, and valuable to your target audience.
An example I cover in the book is Time Warner, which took its entire Life photo archive and digitized it so that the images would live on long after the magazine folded.
Another example is Intel which created “Centrino boots” to allow gamers to run two times faster in World of Warcraft. Here, too, the key was developing (and digitizing) a key brand asset and seeding it out in the community.
But let’s not forget the lesson of Chapter 5 which is “Be Where Your Audience Is.” Distributing your brand only makes sense in places where the people you’re trying to reach are hanging out and spending time.
Shawn: How often do you Google yourself and/or your brand?
Aaron: At least once a day. And I’m not shy about it. I do it at home, in my office, even in public. Sure, it’s embarrassing when I get caught but I just keep telling myself its normal and everyone does it.
Thanks to Aaron for taking the time here.