Everything I Know about Marketing I learned from Google

Marty Kohr, Northwestern University

Marty Kohr
Integrated Marketing Communications Faculty
Northwestern University Medill School

How did the internet change the game for marketing?

It sounds like you’re drawing a line in the sand between pre-Internet and post-Internet. I think there’s been one constant flow from the beginning of time around communication vehicles. It’s just moving at hyperspeed now.

There’s constant change. Change in vehicles and level of individualism, engagement, and community building.

The line between the Internet and other channels is blurring. But it’s been one constant continuum.

The basic principles of understanding consumers and working to meet their needs is as true now as yesterday — even more so!

Today, media and brands are intertwined. In the future, you won’t recognize the brands in the marketing. Look at the early corporate sponsors of TV, radio, and print. It’s more fine-tuned though in the digital age. More 0’s and 1’s.

So how can brands succeed?

You have to engage [consumers]. You can’t just direct them. You have to make it worth their while.

The foundation stays the same. I teach a class called “Engagement Marketing.” The key for brands is to offer something of value so it’s worth the consumer’s time to engage with it. Media will be ignored otherwise.

You said earlier, in the future, we won’t recognize the brands in marketing. It’s almost the other way around. We won’t recognize the marketing, if it’s true utility.

Yes, when marketing is a value you won’t recognize it as marketing.

The Atlantic just ran a story on what the Grateful Dead can teach the music business but the lessons apply to all business categories. First, they had a complete focus on their most loyal customers. Second, they gave their product away for free — letting people tape their shows — so it would spread virally and drive people to buy event tickets and merchandise.

What did you think of Google’s Super Bowl ad?

I thought it was terrific. The product was featured as the emotional hero.

Did you see the Tiger Woods spoof? The sign of a good commercial is when you get parodied. We had that happen a lot when I worked on Budweiser [at DDB].

What impact with the iPad have on marketing?

I think the iPad will change everything like the iPod did for music. The opportunities for brand interaction are incredible. You can watch video, TV, and interact with brands seamlessly.

Brands have to work harder in this environment. They have to offer something of value in their way they communicate. Budweiser made it so damn funny that you sought it out. We had 250 parodies of [the] Whassup [commercial].

It’s easier to do with beer [or other similar brands or products]. But Geico does it too. They keep their messages fresh and bizarre and unexpected. E-Trade does it with the baby and the outtakes.

The iPad will instantly give people access to 140k apps. Does the opportunity for brands shift from trying to interrupt with advertising to creating apps that provide utility?

Absolutely. I had a student in one of my classes who worked at Google tell me that 2 of the top 5 apps are branded.

The key is to be a part of people’s lives. People will always prefer to business with friends.

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