Les Binet urges marketers to measure Google searches to predict brand health

The effectiveness guru unveiled his new 'share of search' metric at today’s IPA-led Effworks Global 2020 Conference.

Binet, left, teased his findings on Twitter (@BinetLes)
Binet, left, teased his findings on Twitter (@BinetLes)

Advertisers should closely monitor how often they are searched for on Google to track their brand’s wellbeing and future market share, Les Binet is arguing, after a six-year effectiveness investigation.

Binet, one of the industry’s foremost authorities on advertising effectiveness, launched his new “share of search” metric at today’s Effworks Global 2020 Conference, hosted by the IPA. 

The group head of effectiveness at Adam & Eve/DDB says the metric refers to a brand’s share of organic searches on Google (not share of of paid search advertising). 

Simply by dividing the number of searches made for a given brand by the total searches for all brands in a particular category, Binet says advertisers can get a fast, cheap and predictive number that can act as a reliable “early-warning system for brands”. In the case of car brands, the share of search number can give marketers as much as a year’s notice as to where their market share will end up.

To test the share of search theory, Binet explored three categories:  cars, energy and mobile phone handsets. He found that share of voice (advertising) has two effects on share of search: a big, short-term effect that dies away quickly, and a longer-term impact that decays slowly. The long-term effects, however, accumulate over time.

Binet found that sustained advertising drove the growth of share of search, with six in 10 searches coming from the long-term effects. However, he admits that share of search is not a perfect predictor, due to price movements being a factor and not all search activity being positive. 

Each brand has an equilibrium level, Binet added. If the share of voice falls below the equilibrium level, the share of search tends to fall during the next two years, but if the share of voice is above equilibrium, the share of search tends to rise over the next two years.

Binet said: “Over the past 30 years, I’ve found that the relationship between tracking metrics and actual purchase behaviour is often surprisingly weak. By tracking share of search we have a powerful, not to mention cheap, metric to measure what people are actually doing online, rather than what they say they are doing.

“It is by no means a silver bullet – the data needs to be interpreted with care, and researchers need more detail to be able to apply this to the real world, which is something I will be providing in a further IPA webinar in November. Without doubt, though, share of search has enormous potential and predictive power to track brands and advertising going forward.”

Binet, alongside his longtime collaborator Peter Field, has put forward the marketing idea that a brand achieves an excess share of voice if its share of voice significantly exceeds its share of market. This excess, if it is maintained, leads to market share growth over time.

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