Search marketing is a tool increasingly used by brands looking to help their customers find their products and services online faster and with less effort. Broadband penetration is now 60% in the UK, and the internet is proving an effective way for businesses to motivate customers and maintain consumer interest in their brands.
New media, and particularly interactivity, is now regarded as a key way for marketers to engage audiences, with traditional TV and press ads now usually featuring a call to visit a website, and technology such as mobile phone text messaging or the “red button” on digital TV increasingly being adopted in campaigns.
To enhance this promotional technology, brands have to invest significant amounts in search engine marketing. The aim of this is to ensure the organisation comes as near to the top of a list when a user types key related words into a search engine.
Range Of Results
Ken Robinson, chairman of web marketing specialists WebCertain, says: “All the benefits of search engine marketing stem from one key point – you are in front of the customers just as the idea enters their head. When you are presented with a range of results to your search, it’s comforting to see an organisation you know, which also reassures you that the result you are about to click on is going to give you the answer you seek.”
However, search marketing technology comes at a cost to companies. Search engines such as Google monitor thousands of sites to come up with results, and brands looking for an online presence must pay a premium to appear high on the list of keyword search results.
VCCP Search managing director Paul Mead says: “The cost of competitive keywords continues to increase, and there is additional pressure on brand keywords since Google changed its trademark policy in May this year. The economic situation will also have an effect on search as a smaller pool of consumers goes through a longer, more in-depth purchase cycle in order to secure the right product at the best price.”
According to the latest research figures from Forrester Research, companies spend over £5bn on search engine activities. Digital agencies are thriving, with most new business coming in the form of creating a web presence for clients.
Adrian Cross, brand communication director at digital creative agency Graphico, explains: “Brands need to review and refine their values to incorporate digital user characteristics as integral parts of their overall brand communications – collaboration, innovation and openness are specific values that go a long way to help maximise their return on digital investment.”
The aim of the online presence, he adds, is to “creatively and digitally develop and enhance a brand’s integration with user lifestyles, create opportunities for user interaction and further inform future media strategy”.
Integrated agency Wax Communications managing director Matt Tabb says that digital media enables older brands to engage with a new audience, making them relevant for a new audience but without losing credibility and their unique heritage.
Tabb adds: “Promotions certainly help build brands and as such they provide a good tactical way to refresh heritage brands and provide new consumer interest and engagement.”
While some brands are dying because of shifting consumer needs, the internet can help brands suffering through heavy competition or declining levels of awareness by rejuvenating awareness and converting this into sales. New media enables brands to consider how to reinvent themselves, helps them be seen as part of the times so that they can continue to survive in the modern, competitive market.
And there’s no shortage of skills to help brands achieve this. Digital agencies are coming up with new and innovative ideas to get consumers’ attention. Revamped internet home pages, dedicated product microsites, mobile-internet promotions, social-media campaigns and SMS campaigns are all becoming core components of integrated campaigns.
Nigel Hollis, chief global analyst at Millward Brown, says: “There is a delicate balance to be struck when it comes to consistency. The trick is to refresh the brand idea without changing its basic promise until such time as circumstances mean you have to change or lose out.”
Victoria White, head of activation at Digital Tullo Marshall Warren, agrees that the increased use of digital technologies has helped to influence new marketing strategies for brands. She says: “The advent of digital channels has undoubtedly had a huge impact on sales promotion, how it can be used and its place in the media mix. Sales promotions can now be carried out on a much smaller scale; they can be faster, more flexible, more creative and more reactive. For consumers, digital media makes entertaining sales promotion much easier.”
However, brands must approach the use of search marketing to enhance these services with caution, to ensure it reaches the right audience at the right time.
Simon Matthews, chief executive of integrated marketing group Eden State, argues: “Search marketing can’t be just a bolt-on. It’s not enough to import search marketing and digital specialists into traditional teams and call them integrated. Integration at this level requires a much deeper mutual understanding of different marketing specialists.”
This lack of understanding by some brands is a concern shared by industry experts.
Nilhan Jayasinghe, head of natural search at digital agency iCrossing UK, says: “The biggest mistake that old brands make in adopting new media is to treat it like old media – buying attention in the form of display advertising and pay-per-click and treating search engine optimisation as another channel you can simply buy into, without an overall digital commitment.”
Wax’s Tabb adds: “Delivering promotions online throws up the same challenges as any digital campaign – digital channels provide great scope for enriching promotions, but the challenge is to provide interactive, well-designed, clever, engaging and preferably downloadable content.”
For brands wishing to use their internet presence for ecommerce opportunities, there are also many online survey services available that examine how people shop online and they can present marketers with a full picture of online consumer behaviour.
Real-time analytics services can track the impact new media changes have on the number of people clicking through to the next stage of the pages online. Marketers can then tailor the site content to maintain the higher click-through rates.
Mark Simpson, managing director at search analytics company Maxymiser, says: “Maintaining visitor engagement levels is vital during multipage processes, such as the journey to the checkout. The use of images, the presentation of call-to-action buttons, particularly proceed buttons, and the amount of data presented on each page all combine to have a dramatic effect on the percentage of visitors continuing towards sales conversion.”
Start A Relationship
To succeed in search marketing, Glenn Batty, managing director of digital agency Enyanga, advises: “Don’t think of online marketing as a chance to sell. Think of it as a chance to start a relationship. And like all good relationships the secret is to listen, find out what they want, and give it to them. That’s how happy endings are created.”
It’s clear to see the use of new media can really help to boost a brand’s profile, if applied in the correct manner. Brands must rise above their competition and embrace innovation if they are to survive, especially in today’s tough economic climate.
Case study 1: McVitie’s Penguin bars and Save the Penguins campaign
In February, Wax Communications created a colourful on-pack sponsorship promotion for United Biscuits’ McVitie’s Penguin brand to raise funds to help save Antarctica and the Southern Ocean – home to the Emperor penguin.
The pack design featured the iconic penguin, who “told” consumers about the project and how they can help, and directed consumers to a website featuring more information on the Antarctic penguin colony at www.thepenguinsquest.co.uk The main purpose of the campaign was to reposition the McVitie’s Penguin brand as a modern and responsible brand and to achieve engagement through a relevant educational issue – conservation and climate change.
Wax Communications managing director Matt Tabb explains why the use of the internet helped to refresh the Penguin brand.
“With our Penguin/WWF campaign we provided a site that not only featured lots of background information on the Emperor Penguin and its habitat but also a way to track the penguin’s journey across Antarctica. By focusing on this compelling and interactive point of interest for the visitor we were able to keep them engaged with the brand for longer,” he says.
The campaign was backed by offline activity enabling consumers to send in the special pack along with £5.99 – or £6.99 and no pack – in exchange for a 21cm soft-toy penguin, a wall chart tracking the Antarctic penguin’s annual march across the ice, an information leaflet and a fundraising form so children and parents can get more involved.
Tabb adds: “The chance to learn something new can be just as compelling. Added value is not just monetary.”
Case study 2: Laura Ashley and the use of online research
Laura Ashley, the fashion and home furnishings brand, has been working with Maxymiser, the content optimisation specialist, to enhance its ecommerce service on www.lauraashley.com.
Through subtle alternations and real-time assessments of web content, the partnership has enabled Laura Ashley to increase the number of visitors both starting and completing the checkout process by 11%.
The retailer implemented real-time multivariant testing to monitor consumer reactions to different approaches to the format and presentation of content on the shopping bag page.
This works by presenting different variations of the page simultaneously to different visitors, tracking the impact each change has on the number of people clicking through to the next stage of the process, and then tailoring the site content to maintain the highest click-through rates.
The technology enabled Laura Ashley not only to measure the effect of each change on engagement levels but to test several options to rectify any negative impact, such as where delivery charges appear on the page.
Mark Simpson, managing director at Maxymiser, says: “It was only by automating their optimisation solution that Laura Ashley was able to not only identify areas requiring improvement but maximise the flow of visitors from initial engagement through to the checkout.”
Case study 3: Make Fab Fun Again online promotion
With sales of the Fab ice lolly falling in 2006, the brand decided it needed a new campaign to help boost brand awareness among younger people.
Despite selling 73 million lollies annually, the brand felt it was losing relevance with 21st century consumers and launched a £650,000 campaign, codenamed Make Fab Fun.
The campaign used both digital and offline media, and was created by a “virtual agency” of specialist partners including event marketers Mad Media, advertising agency Farm, website design agency Suburb, PR agency Publicasity and media buying agencies Steak and Fairfield.
The virtual agency conducted research that found young girls and boys liked turning their bedrooms into a personal fantasy. Inspired by this, they devised a campaign around a central design competition, encouraging parents to access “den templates” at www.myfabland.com. These templates would be coloured in and decorated over the school holidays, then sent back to Fab. In return the brand would make a charitable donation and three families would see their den brought to life with their bedrooms being made over to look like their winning design.
The virtual agency ran the campaign across different media to generate awareness. Digital advertising on parenting and lifestyle sites targeted mums and led them to the templates at myfabland.com.
Advertorials also ran in monthly and weekly magazines and regional newspapers that target the right audience for the campaign.
The promotion was a huge success. The website generated 109,208 visits in six weeks and helped the brand increase its sales by 22% over the same period.