Google ThinkPerformance Toronto: Performance Marketing Grows Up

Friday, May 25, 2012
Guest Contributor

Search is the world’s biggest focus group.

Speakers kept returning to this one phrase during yesterday’s Google thinkperformance Toronto event. Yes, we love numbers. We are at our core a bunch of data geeks. But yesterday was more about the human element; how data can help us understand our user, how it can help us anticipate and meet her needs, and why we need to step outside ourselves and think like the humans who visit our sites.

Whether we were listening to Chris O’Neill, Avinash Kaushik, Matt Ackley or Mitch Joel, all speakers were bound by three golden threads:

  • Intelligent, data-driven marketing is now the norm (or should be) at your organization
  • Success in digital means providing an easy, joyful user experience
  • Consumers are ahead of most marketers in what they demand from digital environments

Data Analysis is a Given: Let’s Think About the User

We found the presentations surprisingly relevant to some themes we are currently exploring at DAC group – particularly the emphasis on user experience: merging the qualitative and quantitative.

Performance marketers take data analysis for granted. We splice, dice, dissect ROI and clickstream data like it’s going out of style.  In and around all the analytics, it is paramount to step back and think about how users enjoy your digital environments. Is your analysis improving the user experience? Are your visitors teaching you how to optimize your design and navigation to meet their needs?

The Mobile Wave is About to Break

And we couldn’t agree more about the urgency of adapting to mobile. Time and time again, our clients’ data is showing a steady increase in the number of visitors who search, click and buy on their mobile devices. In many cases, performance marketers are chasing the data, driven by a wave of consumer adoption. The faster we can adapt our campaigns and interfaces to where the market is at, the better our ROI and the happier our users will be.

Chris O’Neill: Be Extraordinary

Chris O’Neill, Managing Director of Google Canada, declared today the golden era of marketing, thanks to the rich tools and data at our disposal. Consumers are engaged, and the intelligent marketer will develop content and campaigns on the consumer’s terms. He asked all of us to demand more data (because we can) and to use this data to inform our strategies and tactics. Chris’s conclusion: ground yourself with data, but take risks and deliver something extraordinary; if you don’t, someone else will.

Avinash Kaushik: Deliver Joy

Avinash Kaushik, Google’s Analytics evangelist, delivered a refreshing and simple message: provide users with an easy – and delightful – experience. Avinash underscored his message by leading us down a hall of shame featuring Canada’s biggest consumer brands. Hilarity ensued. But it wouldn’t be an Avinash show without some emphasis on metrics. Avinash noted: “We have access to more data than God wants anybody to have.” What do we do with it? Learn how to intelligently measure success. Celebrate the exceptional, and kill what sucks.

Mitch Joel: Look Ahead

Mitch Joel is exceptionally good at giving us a peek over the edge at what today’s digital innovators are up to. Sure, some new ideas may not trickle down to your business. But movements on the edge will subtly affect how consumers behave and how we market to them. Mitch underscored the necessity of building genuine, one-on-one relationships with consumers. He asked us to view data differently: to stop seeing it as linear in favour of viewing it as self-reflexive, circular. Privacy is not an issue if you are using data to give consumers what they want: personalization.

Matt Ackley: Test, Iterate, Take Risks

Matt Ackley has deep roots in search and performance marketing; he helped invent it. As Google’s Director of Media & Platforms, Matt advised us to let the data lead, because “you can find things in the data that humans can’t find.” His unshakable faith in predictive algorithms and personalization has led him to contextual advertising and beyond. He described the process of creating ads to suit page content, while simultaneously adapting ad creative so it speaks directly to consumers. The goal: collaboration between publisher, advertiser and user will give consumers exactly what they are looking for.

Kirsten Weisenburger, Digital Strategic Planner