These tools, while fun and interesting, are also potentially important as business intelligence and data mining tools and increasingly useful to track the efficacy of offline marketing. Whatever their problems and challenges today, these tools will ultimately improve and become important to marketers as they coordinate “integrated” campaigns across traditional and Internet media.
Yahoo has very self-consciously used its Buzz Index in the past to help marketers determine the impact of a particular campaign on search volumes and thus measure its effectiveness. In this context, search becomes a response or proxy for interest and engagement.
Search, as a consumer behavior, often sits between some stimulus (e.g., a TV ad campaign) and an ultimate purchase (typically in the real world). Search helps structure and drive consideration; it’s increasingly the way people discover information that helps them make purchase decisions. Accordingly, JupiterResearch recently projected that by 2011 the Internet would influence a “trillion dollars” of offline U.S. retail spending. While that’s a mind-boggling number (and probably somewhat overblown) it is directionally exactly correct. And search is the first and most commonly used tool by consumers in shopping mode.
The search query logs are, as John Battelle has dubbed them, the “database of intentions.” And there are many actionable things that can be learned through data mining of those logs. But for purposes of this post, one intriguing possibility is using search (and the trends tools) as a way to track the efficacy of traditional marketing.
The obvious “disadvantage” that most traditional media have vs. the Internet is their perceived lack of “accountability” — there’s limited or no tracking available. In an ironic sort of way, search now can become that tool.
As these trends tools are refined and become more accurate, they will show whether and how consumers are responding to traditional media campaigns and geographically where those responses are coming from. And that information is incredibly valuable for self-evident reasons.