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Guest Column: Was Google being naughty this holiday season?

Robert Passikoff, President, Brand Keys, writes about how the Microsoft campaign took potshots at Google

January 3, 2013

Robert Passikoff

Microsoft is getting their lumps in by accusing Google of being naughty as regards their holiday shopping guidance. They launched a new campaign in the run-up to the holiday season, titled ‘Scroogled’. Yes, a take on Charles Dickens’ famous moneygrubbing, skinflint, with Microsoft asserting that Google adjusts shopping search results according to whether and how much merchants have paid them to list their products and have them come up first. This was Microsoft’s way to give consumers a reason to divert searches from Google and use their search+ engine, Bing. So they’re warning consumers they risk the chance of getting ‘scroogled’ if they rely on the results of a Google Shopping search. Who to trust? We measure the Search Engine category in our Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, and one of the drivers of loyalty and engagement is ‘Brand Trust’. It’s the second-most important driver, with a moderately high consumer expectation level, and here is how the top five search engine brands rank when it comes to consumer trust: 1. Google 86% 2. Yahoo 84% 3. Bing 83% 4. MSN 81% 5. AOL 80% Engagement and loyalty metrics seldom lie. They are the nicest of all the brand metrics available, no matter the season, so it’s not likely that consumers have yet added this Bing-based argument to their lists: Google preached ‘Don’t be evil’, but on May 31, 2012, Google Shopping announced a new plan, which basically boils down to all shopping results are paid ads. So this is the first holiday season where retailers have to pay to be included in Google Shopping results. In the ad (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_6bSCW_UI0), Microsoft asserts that what Google does is a betrayal of their position to provide the most trustworthy searches on the web. They point out that Google search ‘relevance’ and ‘Why these Products (show up on the Google List)?’ comes with the explanation, ‘Google is compensated by their merchants. Payment is one of several factors used to rank results.’ But before you add Google to your ‘Naughty’ list, you might be interested to know that Bing has a partnership with Shopping.com that offers higher visibility for paid listings. Bing tried clarifying its position on the matter in a statement, saying that while merchants can pay to have their products listed in Bing, there’s no requirement. In a statement, Google would not comment directly on Bing’s attack, but defended improvements it had made to the changes to Google Shopping. In a Christmas carol, Dickens had written: ‘Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends... But if the courses be departed from the ends will change.’ The same just might also be said about online search.

(Reproduced with permission from www.BrandKeys.com)

(Robert Passikoff, Brand Key’s founder and President, is a recognised thought leader on brand engagement and loyalty. He has pioneered work in the area, creating the Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, the Brandweek Loyalty Leaders List, the Sports Fan Loyalty Index, and the Women’s Wear Daily Fashion Brand Engagement Index. His first best-selling book, Predicting Market Success, provided marketers with a 21st century perspective on predictive loyalty metrics; his latest book, The Certainty Principle: How to Guarantee Brand Profits in the Consumer Engagement Marketplace, examines a predictive approach to integrated marketing ROI.)

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