In hindsight, I didn’t fully comprehend what I was buckling up for. No one did. A roller coaster perhaps. But roller coasters are short — a few minutes of twists and drops, then they’re over. This pandemic is no typical roller coaster.
For our media teams at Google right now, we’re moving from crisis reaction mode into a more pragmatic response phase. I wish I could say we’re “settling in,” but even that’s a euphemism. The reality is there are still loads of unanswered questions and tough decisions to be made.
As I reflect on where our focus has been forced, a back-to-basics mentality is emerging. The coronavirus pandemic is teaching us about how to run campaigns that will live beyond this moment. And though it has been an extremely painful experience, perhaps it will make us all better marketers in the long term.
In this moment, when planned campaigns have been shelved, we’re gaining a renewed appreciation for following our users’ lead.
The typical launch playbook for capturing and creating demand has been thrown out
At Google, we’re quite accustomed to user-first thinking. In fact, “Know the user. Know the magic. Connect the two,” is a mantra that runs deep among our marketing teams. But in this moment, when planned campaigns have been shelved, we’re gaining a renewed appreciation for following our users’ lead.
Like most large marketing organizations, we typically focus on multimedia campaigns built around key moments that define our calendar year. We plan campaigns in support of those moments with a beginning, a middle, and an end in mind. The sequence roughly looks like this: You have a prelaunch period, led by PR; you manufacture an “epic” kickoff, sustained by ongoing (often expensive) high-impact media across paid and owned channels; and you deploy scaled direct-response media to capture demand throughout. But that’s how things used to be, pre-COVID-19.
The current reality has forced all of us marketers to be far more driven by what people need rather than broadcasting to them in a predefined moment we choose. Throwing out the playbook has forced us to and demanded that we be more fluid, dynamic, and grounded in data to tap into real-time consumer intent. And that’s a good thing for the long run.
Here’s how I’ve been thinking about what this means for us at Google.
We’re tapping into consumer trends — and Google data — more than ever
We’re looking at Search and YouTube trends every day to identify what people are leaning into in this unprecedented moment. For example, you’ve probably noticed your social feeds are full of bread baking. Although we don’t sell bread makers or baking equipment, we do sell products that can help with the process, like Google Nest Hub screens. When we saw the trend rising (pun intended), we worked with our creative partners to update ad creative and even search ad copy to be more relevant in this unique moment based on what real people are actually doing.
Another example of how we’re tapping into relevant trends: When people’s fascination with tigers exploded globally (thanks to Netflix’s Tiger King), we had an opportunity to surface existing augmented reality (AR) technology in Google Search that would allow users to superimpose a tiger (or a lion or a horse or a duck … ) into their living rooms. As interest in tigers picked up, we quickly made organic social posts to fuel the fun and increased our PR outreach. The result? A huge increase in people trying our AR technology, led by a trend in tigers.