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Leveraging New Internet Tools for Vertical Marketing

by Patricia M. Roth
September 20, 2007

Kevin Kells, industry development director of consumer packaged goods at Google, told wine industry executives to "jump in" to the new digital world, a place where they can connect more closely with consumers and, like it or not, even get feedback that can help grow their brands.

"We don't believe that five guys sitting in a room should be able to know the right answers compared to the hundreds of people who are out there. We want to hear people's comments. It's the core of Search and the core of YouTube," he said.

Kells made his pronouncements at seminar called "Valuable Connections in the Digital World" during the 16th Annual Wine Industry Financial Symposium held at the Napa Valley Marriott on Sept. 18.

Kells contrasted the marketing approach used in traditional media, in which marketers "zap" advertisements where they think consumers will be looking, with what he called the "computing cloud," an abstract place containing "all information: websites and all the findable, usable and more mobile services people use online."

While attracting consumers via traditional media is "a bit of a stretch," he said that "capturing engagement in that cloud" is a two-way exercise. The Internet is a database littered with people's intentions, he explained, and "you want to over-surf" the sites that matter as much to the consumer as to you. "While the cloud is abstract, the users are real."

And they're out there and using Google, now recognized as the world's largest search engine whose mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. For many, the word "google" has become a verb in reference to its free search service that returns relevant results in a fraction of a second. Dozens of Google domains exist, with information in many languages, maps, news headlines, phonebook listings, billions of images, plus the world's largest archive of Usenet messages. According to Google, thousands of advertisers use the Google AdWords program to promote their products and services on the web with targeted advertising.

What's in it for the wine industry? For one thing, thousands (maybe millions?) of people are searching everyday for information about wine, from education to tastings to purchasing. "We connect consumers to all the information they care about. We connect clients to all the consumers you care about it," said Kells.

Kells provided a "brand steward's checklist" with questions brand managers should be asking, such as: Is my brand missing out on engagement opportunities? In response, Kells said it was "physically, mentally and structurally impossible to do marketing that is sight-based anymore. You need to get your brand stewards more in tune with the instrument-based market. Just because you don't always see it, doesn't mean it didn't happen."

He encouraged the crowd to "engage users in the communities you want to reach. Start on Google Search, then go to YouTube, where you have video storytelling by passionate consumers."

He gave examples of large companies, like OfficeMax, Adidas, Cadillac and Heinz, which had turned to Google and YouTube for interactive video ads. Some combined their online and offline approach to marketing and that has worked "very well. They drive each other. They're all mixed together," he said.

Heinz, in particular, ran an extremely successful promotion that invited average Americans to "make our next great ketchup commercial." In search of a $57,000 prize and a high-profile television ad placement, over 8,000 videos were submitted, and about 4,000 qualified for the contest. It is estimated the homemade ads were viewed over five million times on YouTube. Unsurprisingly, Heinz has announced that a second edition of the contest will run in October.

In another Internet campaign, a company played upon consumers' perceptions--in particular, insights from women--and staged an interactive campaign around it. "They used Google, YouTube and other places in the online network to make a story irresistible based upon customer insight and with efficiency that was mind boggling to what they needed to accomplish," said Kells.

Addressing the wine industry crowd, Kells said: "If those categories can take advantage of this, just think what a fun high volume category you swim in."

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