Rethinking Marketing Research & The Google Wasted Opportunity


 Part One – The process

 Follow me on this one.

  Three years ago I have questioned myself about a situation:

How to make a survey or a Market Research with the following conditions:

 – In 24 hours or less

 – In the major geographic areas of the planet

– With a very good ratio cost/responses

– Managing a sample with millions of individuals

– With a report to the client in real time (almost live) basis?

I challenge you to think in one way to do this with traditional methods (face-to-face interviews, phone, post, 3,5G phones, focus groups, internet – eg: surveymonkey – drop mail, e-mail, with help of local MR agencies… you name it). Well, maybe it is possible that you can handle one or two conditions I mentioned. But I’m almost sure you will fail to meet all the five conditions.

We need to think bigger.

Internet is a good way to cover great geographic areas, with good ratio cost/responses and real time reports. But in the last paragraph I write “Internet” as a traditional method, and I consider it that way. Nowadays Internet surveys are based in limited and not so flexible conditions: people are encouraged to go to a site to answer – and that is not an easy task. At least, you would not conclude your research within 24 hours!

The solution to the problem needs a disruptive approach: the respondent goes freely to the place where the survey is, instead of being encouraged or pushed to go to the place where the survey is based.

Imagine everyone in the world as a cable TV with more than 200 channels, but one of them is seen by all kinds of people on a daily basis. If someone needs to spread a message, an advertising clip or just say hello… that channel is the one to rent some space. If you have access to that channel, you spread what you want everywhere and to almost everyone.

Following this metaphor, I propose a solution to the problem: Google. Despite some regional issues, Google is more than a site – is a search engine where everyone goes regularly, even if people are unaware of that. The Google arms can reach every hot domain in the Internet, so you don’t need to be pushed to it, you go there anyway – is part of your life. In every corner of the Internet universe there is a “Google something” (Google Docs, Google mail, Google Buzz, Translator, Picasa, Sketch Up, Google Finance, Google Maps… and so on). And it’s amazing because you can connect with Google by PC, Laptop, Cell phone, (Google) TV and other possibilities.

Everyday, around the world, millions of times, someone turn on is computer and the homepage is the Google search engine. Globally, maybe more than 50% of web navigation begins in a search engine.

Back on track: remember our challenge? Google is wasting a great opportunity to make money, renting is space to the Market Research industry.

Market Research using Google:

Google could rent space in his main page for global causes or non profit events. Imagine the Seven Wonders of the World contest. To have 100 million votes, they spent some weeks waiting that people go to their site. And they spent lots of money promoting the event or doing viral marketing online. I ask: imagine that you go to Google main page, on a shinning day, and you see 7 Wonders contest link to vote? In a few days or hours, you’ll have more than 100 million votes, it’s for sure. I think this approach would have better results with global causes or non profit events because commercial approach could create a negative feeling among Google users. Of course, this doesn’t mean that Google would do this for free!

Google could use the main page to do overall Market Research directly, for itself.

Imagine you’re doing a query and you see something like this: “We are doing some investigation about eating habits in the United States and your opinion would be greatly appreciated…” Well, this is against the “clean design” homepage of Google minds, but… Google is doing several different activities from Street View to Google Sketch up, so why not open this new window of opportunities? And now, the more important: Google could sell the obtained information to the Market Research industry or directly to global clients, and get lots of revenues from that. And this approach could be used for every search engine in dominant positions (e.g. Baidu for the Chinese market). The MR industry could use global information to boost MR reports to their clients, select local information to join to qualitative research… a world of business opportunities. It’s beyond Google Analytics and Technology centered approaches. MR gets really global, with new opportunities to think local. The way the survey appears (or which is the trigger that enables the survey appearance) would be something like what is explained in the text bellow.

Google could do Market Research within Google’s navigation

For me, this is the most important way to make use of all Google potentialities – and don’t imply to go against the “clean design” of Google main page. How would this work? Of course this methodology is not a flat one – some research could not be done with the following set up, and clients need the traditional ways to accomplish the task. A possible framework:

1) Company A needs to conduct a global study in the United Kingdom about personal care creams. For that, contact with her MR provider (Agency B) that has a deal with Google MR Department.

2) Agency B, as an expert that knows what his client want, designs the methodology, a survey and the conditions that thinks to be sufficient to conduct the research.  They pass those conditions to Google, which analyze the information received and proceeds to the budget issue. If everything is all right for the 3 players (Company A, Agency B and Google), research begins.

3) Person X, somewhere in the UK, is surfing in the internet and needs to find something on Google. Unexpectedly, it appears a kind of pop up where Google invites her to answer a survey for people in the UK area. At first, person X thinks: What the hell? But after this, she thinks: Well, this is from Google; it can do me no arm. So she proceeds, answer to 3 or 4 demographic questions and go to the main questions of the survey.

4) Imagine everything go over wheels, lots of people engage in the challenge and answer the questionnaire. The process continues until some kind of “break” is elicited. According to what has been contracted between Agency B and Google, a “break” could be something like this: the research stops when, in every area, the number of completed surveys reaches the sample distribution registered in the contract.

5) Completed questionnaires are sent to an isolated database and, with a kind of template, responses are compiled and an automatic report with results is made in real time. Today we talk too much about data privacy in the internet, and that really scares me. The danger is real. So, in this process, Google’s word is not enough: the search engine needs to give agencies and clients solid proofs that the data gathered is only accessed by the entity that granted the research. Must be a closed, independent platform.

6) Agency B and Company A –  with a kind of password – access in the Google search engine to the business area where MR is located. This is nothing more than a meta-database where companies, agencies and direct clients from all over the world have their own isolated databases: like Agency B and Company A in our example.

7) Accessing the database, Agency B and Company A will have a real time report and can draw the strategy to win the personal care creams market. In a fastest way than with traditional methods.

Maybe you’ve got stuck in the point 3) where I wrote:

Person X, somewhere in the UK, is surfing in the internet and needs to find something on Google. “Unexpectedly, it appears a kind of pop up where Google invites her to answer a survey for people in the UK area.”

This is the main point of the process: the “cyber way” to screen participants to the study. Like the Adwords process, so this will work, but a little bit more elaborated. To help in my explanation, please see the following example of part of a small survey:

a) Let’s talk about beauty care creams. Do you use beauty care creams?

b) (If yes) Which of the following brands do you know, even if just the name sound familiar (Presentation of Brands and places to answer)

c) Which of these brands (if any) do you use on a daily bases?

d) Do you use creams to prevent the appearance of wrinkles?

We can stop here, it’s enough. Now I’m going to put myself in the Google side. I can sell to the client different services, from basic specifications to very elaborated engineering. A basic specification could be something like this:

– pick up the more important keywords presented in the survey or search terms associated (ex: “beauty”, “care”, “care+cream”, “care+cream+brands”, “day+cream”, “night+cream”, “skincare”, “wrinkle”, “wrinkle+prevention”, “ageing”, “skin+problems”, “Nivea”, “Boots”, “buy+skincare+products”… and so on). The idea would be to “Tagalyze” the survey, and that would be Google responsibility.

– When someone searches on Google using any of these terms, a pop up appears inviting the person to respond to a survey on personal care creams. If the person responds properly, that survey goes directly to the platform to be processed.

This is just an idea. If I work in the Googleplex, I would create lots and lots of configurations. Some examples (more accurate)? Try these ones:

– The pop-up with the survey just appears when someone search 3 consecutive times using terms defined for the survey.

– The pop-up with the survey just appears when someone stays in a link obtained by a query with at least one of the specified terms for 15min or more + type, at least, one brand of skincare products.

– The pop-up only appears if, on the 3 days before, in every day, the user typed one or more of our keywords 5 times + the length of the search within the 5 times are 30min or more.

– The pop-up with the survey only appears if just some pre-defined keywords are typed –  eg: “Nivea” and “wrinkles” – in a sequence of 5 searches. If someone searches this sequence: skincare + skin problems + wrinkles + wrinkles and brands + Nivea, this person is eligible to respond. If she types the following sequence: Donna Karan + wrinkles + ageing prevention + skin erosion + skincare catalogue, she wouldn’t be selected, because “Nivea” wasn’t typed.

All this configurations can give more accuracy to the selection process of respondents than the basic specifications early written. The underlying thought is that someone doing a research about personal care products on Google, has some interest in the issue in a sufficient level to respond to a survey, even if, during the survey completion, she needs to be eliminated for not passing the screener. Google function is to help the client in order to obtain the maximum responses to the survey in the shortest time possible. And this strategy could be a valuable approach. More involvement with the key terms specified, more interest, more probabilities of getting someone inside client’s criteria.

Let’s see what could be a “very much elaborated approach”:

– using IGoogle personal configurations and apps to find the interest level of a person about personal care products, without even type a single query. A kind of personal profile of Google users. If someone has lots of apps about beauty, skincare brands, diets, fashion or so, this person is close to our target

– using the search history of someone to catch a “personal care products” profile

– using the Google alerts

– using the queries on Youtube

– using the search history via Google News, Google Books, integration on Google groups, Google Picasa…

– using data from a Blogger account

– using marks and favorites from Google toolbar or Firefox toolbar

As you see, there are plenty of options to touch a target from any market research study. So, Google has the opportunity to create services driven by different dimensions: market research by geographic location, by sample dimension, by number of days the survey is “on”, by panel versus random sample, by target, by omnibus studies, by using cell phone answers (via Android OS) or not…

Part Two – A new advertising solution


Google can have lots of revenues from this approach. Some time ago, I presented this idea to a top person that work in the Google Company, with local leadership functions. His answer was something like this:

“This is a good idea, I understand its value… but it won’t succeed: Google only cares about advertising revenues. You can try, but you won’t get a positive answer…”

Seeing the potential revenues of this process, Google philosophy sustained for this answer just took my breath away. At that time, Facebook was a teenager, Linkedin had less than half the members and Twitter was still a baby. Throw away a revenue source seems to me as a bad strategy. I ask Google: with all the war we have now between search engines and social media players, can Google afford not to explore the Marketing Research industry? Can Google only rely on Google Analytics or Adwords/Adsense strategies? There isn’t a kind of paranoia related to “paid search”, “Ranking results”, “PPC”, “Search Engine Optimizations” and other stuff? Why revenues need to come from this type of advertising?

The state of the art tell us that the “pay per click”, the biddings, the Adwords and so are the main sources of revenues to Google (in the order of billions of dollars).

But Behavioral Advertising is possible within Marketing Research… and more powerful. If you type on Google the word Flower, is very likely that you will have some sponsored links on the right side of the results, something like florists, houseplants providers or fertilizers, for e.g. I believe it works (or no one will bet on this kind of schema), but the bound between something we search (Flower) and something that is advertised to us (Florists, fertilizers, houseplants providers) is a week one. It has not the critical weight to provide massive success for clicking the advertisement.

With the process explained in the Part One of this post, it’s possible to create advertising schemas engaged in a different way (and consequently, more revenues possibilities).

Remember the section Google could use the main page to do overall Market Research directly, for itself? Well, the next framework is applied to that case. 

Pay attention to the next two questions, part of an imaginary survey:

a) Respecting to the last 30 days, which of the following brands do you use or did use for skin care?

X   Avene

X   Vichy


X   Clarins

      Helena Rubinstein


X   Roc

X   Nivea


b) In your opinion, which of the brands you use or did use in the last 30 days showed better overall results? (Please, choose 3 brands from the one’s you use/did use and organize them hierarchically)

1st Avene

2nd Vichy

3rd Clarins

These answers give us stronger bonds than the typical AdWords mechanism. In the AdWords system, a query generates an ad related to the keywords typed. It’s a week association, and time dependent (there is no “history” – coming from the computer where the keyword was typed – that could be used to generate another ad, with a more intense level of relationship between the Google surfer and the advertising showed. It’s a here & now association, just that).

With the use of surveys presented in Part One of this post, answers like the above could represent gold. If someone searches for skincare products, the probability to respond to a survey about those products increases. If someone expresses preference or satisfaction with some brands during that survey, this means Google can activate specific ads to that computer… about those skincare brands. The difference is that Google can create new marketing metrics to present ads and get more from the clients, because (i) ads can be placed at different times and not only when trigger keywords are typed on that computer, (ii) the relationship between the ad and the preferred brands unveiled in the survey is strong and leads to better rates of ad clicking.

But there’s more: Google Analytics experience could be used to improve results analysis and link different variables that can increase drastically behavioral advertising. Personal ads can be displayed, with coherence and logic. All this, using survey results.

This kind of framework is not new – I’m sure – to search engines or social media. But it as lots of potential, that is not being used right now. Search engines cover bigger targets and situations, so the framework can result perfectly. Instead, Facebook and social media have lots of users, but lacks diversity to really global Marketing Research. Social networks could be more valuable when qualitative information or profile information is required to do good MR.

Every search engine or social networks as lots of things to develop. Hope my contribution helps Marketing Research industry and Internet giants to boost new limits of cooperation.

See my Linkedin public profile :

The opinions expressed in this blog, despite they are supported by practical and scientific knowledge, are just that: opinions.

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One thought on “Rethinking Marketing Research & The Google Wasted Opportunity

  1. Olá Francisco,

    Excelente Blog! Temas pertinentes e conteúdos sustentados! Bom Look, moderno, dinâmico e organizado! Material para alimentar debates bastante entusiasmantes! É um óptimo caminho…só não sei onde vou conseguir arranjar o tempo de dedicação que o teu blog merecia…by the way, tu estás na mesma. Bjs

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