Kevin Delaney at the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) today has an interesting article that borrows a page from John Battelle’s “database of intentions” idea of search as a kind of repository for consumer demand, buzz meter and perpetual focus group all in one.
The article discusses how marketers are using search to help conduct research and development, launch new products and predict potential product success based on perceived consumer demand — all via search volumes:
There is evidence that data about consumer searches could prove valuable to businesses in other ways. As part of an experiment, Google analyzed search-query volumes related to movies released in 2005 and compared them with opening weekend box-office revenue for each movie. The company found that it could predict with 82% or higher accuracy based on consumer search activity as early as six weeks before the opening whether a film would top $25 million in receipts its first weekend.
While Hollywood studios already have other ways, such as consumer surveys, for helping predict blockbusters, the Google experiment shows how an automated approach could be brought to the issue. The Internet company believes there are potential applications of similar analyses in other industries, such as using search-query activity to anticipate consumer demand in order to staff call centers appropriately.
In a related vein, search can and is being used by marketers as a tool to track the effectiveness of traditional media campaigns as well.
But Kevin’s article is very interesting for what it implies about the future and innovative ways in which search can be used — not simply as a direct response marketing vehicle but much more broadly and at various stages of the product development cycle.