marketing and sales executives from Silicon Valley

Monday, July 27, 2009

No Search Ads for Coca Cola

I was watching the twitcast from revenue bootcamp (#revenuebootcamp) when I saw a message from designmom. It read:
Coca Cola is one of the top 5 advertisers on the world and they don't do search ads.
At first I thought "wow", but then I thought "why should they?"

Coca Cola is a major brand offering a product that is largely a consumable impulse buy. Correct me if I'm wrong, but have any of you searched for anything related to Coca Cola before buying a Coke? I know I haven't, and I don't know anyone who has. To put it in broader market perspective, do college or high school students search for "Coke" when they want to buy one? Do your parents or grand parents search for it? What if we broaden the scope to not just Coke, but to other comparable consumable impulse buys in the same category. Does anyone search for Sprite, 7up, Pepsi, etc? In reality, the Coca Cola company does run search ads for coke rewards and other loyalty programs, yes, but not for the consumable.

Maybe there's a lesson here that a subconscious truth for me may be explicitly proposed as a general rule of thumb: Consumable impulse buys have an inherently short buying cycles and are poor search advertising targets. This matters in the bigger picture of advertising. Even in a recession, a flight to measurement and ROI does not guarantee increased usefulness or applicability of search advertising for the product itself.

Now the real lesson here, is that advertising is situational - it has a time, place, and context. Not all forms of advertising applies for all products, and, some advertising only makes sense in certain contexts as well. Thus is makes sense to advertise Coke in movie theaters, since it could influence you to buy more Coke, and a search ad wouldn't apply there. Your situation is an entertainment venue where people eat and drink. On the other hand, if you love Coke and are going to a Coke Museum, when you search for Coke or Coke Museum you may get search ads for the Coke loyalty program, Coke related film shorts, or other promotional programs. The context is looking for information and the search ad is intended to further loyalty and word of mouth, not satisfy an immediate need to eat or drink.

So, @designmom, thanks for the topic, and for reminding me about the rules of advertising, the importance of context, and that search advertising isn't the necessarily the answer to all revenue problems.

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