April 20, 2018

How Search is a Marketing Function

Last week I attended yet another luncheon of the Columbus American Marketing Association. This time the guest speaker was Mark Marinacci: Head of Industry- Retail, Google. 

He was there to talk about “Innovations in Search.” I left convinced that search is a marketing function. I am worried — very worried — for libraries.

First he boggled the mind by saying that from the beginning of time to 2003 humans generated 5 exabytes of information. Today we create that much information in 2 days. There was quite a gasp at that fact.

He next spoke about how search matters for marketers. That search can help grow your audience and ensure insights into your customers. He talked about the “zero moment of truth” — that moment when someone decides to purchase or use an item and how can we cut through the clutter of a sea of information in order to influence that decision.

Search drives viewpoints that get people closer to that moment of truth. His example: 3 years ago 60% of purchase decisions were made before anyone walked into a store. Now 83% is. More people are researching customer testimonials on line long before they ever enter the store. Influencing that conversation is important for marketers.

He talked about what Google searches are doing to how we know what we know. He shared that Google can predict  flu epidemics before Center for Disease Control can by watching who and where people do a Google search for the flu. They can see an increase in searches for stuffy nose and sneezing long before it becomes a real outbreak.

Here’s an interesting experiment for you. Go to Google search. Type in your library’s name. Look at all the related searches that come up. These searches are ranked in frequency. I did that, and what I learned is that more people are searching for our Foundation than I would have suspected — in the shot below you can see that it shows up high in the list. That tells me that I need to improve access to our Foundation from our library’s website.

He focused on how search is changing:

Personalization: Shortly they are introducing a feature that will overlay your social network on top of your search, so you can see what people in your social network search for.

Language: 90% of digital content is in 1 of 40 languages. Google Translate is transforming our ability to talk with one another. You can pop a Google Translate widget on your website, and presto — instant translate!

Localization: 1 in 5 searches in local. He showed how a search on Target (one of their strategic partners) for toasters, provides a drop down menu that will show you the real inventory at your nearest Target store. That boggles my mind.


Mobile:In 5 years, more users will connect to the internet via a mobile device than a desktop PC. We are in the midst of a major platform shift, with Google now offering voice recognition.He told the story of sitting in a Cubs game, using his phone to verbally ask what some player’s ERA is. The answer was instantaneous. And he talked Google Goggles, which is a visual search. Take a photo on your phone, and Google can tell you what it is.  Wow. Libraries really need to ramp up their mobile strategies.

 Real Time:Google is aggressively working to stream all that content real time, whether or not it is video, tweets, broadcast television — all of it will soon appear simultaneously on your phone.

So where are libraries in all this? I’m telling you, if we don’t reinvent ourselves, we’re out of the game. This is traveling at us so fast we won’t know what happened. We can’t keep thinking of ourselves as repositories of knowledge. We’ve got to think creatively about what is our unique identity. Many libraries are starting to do this but I’m starting to worry that time is running out! Give me some encouragement!

Alison Circle About Alison Circle

Alison Circle is director of marketing communications for Columbus Metropolitan Library. Previously she was an Account Director at Jack Morton Worldwide, a global branding agency, and her primary client was Target Stores. Prior to that she was the National Marketing Director for Minnesota Public Radio and "A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor." She has advanced degrees in English and Fine Arts, and is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant.