Live from Captiva: The Digital Divide

First published May 7, 2009 in Mediapost’s Search Insider

Gian Fulgoni has a better view of the online landscape than most of us. As the chairman of comScore, he has access to a massive database that captures every click of online activity from over 2,000,000 panel members. So when it comes to spotting trends, Gian’s got a pretty good vantage point.

Online Branding for CPG

As you’re reading this, Gian’s probably giving the opening keynote at the Search Insider Summit  on Captiva Island in Florida. I’m not sure what Gian will be covering, but he did share a few slides with me and I’m sure they’ll make their way into his keynote.  They’re the results of a study that showed the relative effectiveness of online and television advertising in driving purchases of consumer packaged goods ranging from cookie mixes and pizza to toothpaste and deodorant.

Eighty-two percent of the online campaigns showed positive sales or unit lift, with an average lift of 18%. Further, short-term online campaigns matched the effective lift of long-term TV campaigns (9% lift with online, 8% with TV).

Consumers Don’t Differentiate, So Why Do Marketers?

What is interesting about the study to me is the artificial line we still tend to draw between online and offline marketing.  And when I say “we,”  I mean “we” the marketers, not “we” the people. The chasm between online and offline is slightly narrower than it was before, but I find true integrated marketing only exists in the sales hyperbole of agencies, with little evidence of it in the real world.  With the advertisers I’m familiar with, the online marketing department barely talks with the offline Marcom folks, let alone sits down with them to plan out an integrated strategy.

Consumers don’t do this. If a consumer is considering a purchase, she pursues the most effective means necessary to research the purchase. Offline awareness leads to online consideration. Online consideration leads to offline visits to a retail location. Offline visits can lead to online price checking. We as consumers jump back and forth across the digital divide with ease, yet for marketers, the chasm seems unbridgeable. Why is this?

Part of it is attitude. Traditional marketers ignored online until it was too late. Their tardiness left us digital folks free reign to set up shop, thinking it would be, at best, an incremental channel that would never threaten the main event. But now, just a few short years later, you’ve got studies like Gian’s coming out saying that online might just be as effective as TV in driving sales of potato chips and pop. Hard to fathom, but true.

Branding: One Search at a Time

Even more startling, lowly search seems to have some brand-building chops of its own, at least when measured at one critical consumer intersection, active consideration of a purchase. My company has done a number of studies for Google, in seven different product categories and markets from Australia to North America showing the brand lift of search. Guess what? Lowly search, described by some as the ValPak of online, consistently delivered brand lift numbers averaging in the double digits. And that was before consumers even got to where the real brand building happens, the manufacturer’s Web site. Just a search ad alone lifted brand awareness, brand affinity and likelihood to purchase. Not bad for a handful of words showing up somewhere on a results page.

I have no idea what the “buzz” of Captiva will be, but I suspect we’ll spend at least some time talking about this ridiculous divorce between online and offline. Ironically, it seems like the recession is finally bringing the two sides a little closer together. I don’t understand why we marketers are taking so long to get it. Buyers seemed to figure it out a long time ago.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s