Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Another One of Those Incremental Improvements That Keep Google Ahead

Here’s something that shouldn’t surprise you: Google just keeps getting smarter.

Last week, the Internet frontrunner announced changes that will enhance its contextual targeting capabilities.

Contextual ads show up on pages of Google publishing partners. These AdSense ads are supposed to be relevant to various keywords on a given page. (Say you load a story about increasing new home construction. You’re likely to see an ad from a homebuilder.) When it works, it’s your typical, intuitive, don’t-even-realize-it’s-happening Google experience.

Trouble is, sometimes Google’s contextual targeting hasn’t worked quite right. Like when an ad for cheap airline tickets shows up on a page about a plane crash. Here’s an amusing slideshow of some of the most egregious examples of contextual targeting mishaps.

The changes Google announced this week should cut down on these embarrassing exceptions—once again keeping Google ahead of the pack in terms of creating an ever smoother, more customized Internet that works better for advertisers and users alike.

That’s not only good news for you if you’re an advertiser. It’s also a good example. The lesson? Never stop improving. The folks at Google never do, and that’s one of the ways they maintain a competitive edge.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Lessons from a ‘Best Buy’ That Wasn’t

Come on Best Buy, you can do better than this. Your little $10 LCD TV mistake could have been parlayed into some goodwill publicity—if you bothered to follow through.

Instead, we get what amounted, more or less, to a classic “no comment.” In fairness to Best Buy, the retailer is refunding everyone who ordered the sets at that eye-popping price on And the official word from the company was oops, sorry for the misunderstanding.

But that was followed by a gentle reassertion of the company’s right to change pricing and availability of products at any time. And beyond that, Best Buy is mum.

Why? Seems to us like the perfect opportunity to turn a mix-up into a make-up with customers. Turning an unhappy customer into a satisfied one is one of the quickest routes to positive word of mouth (and great PR). For Best Buy, it could have been as simple as sending all the aggrieved a little Best Buy gift card (or at least a decent coupon) along with their refund. Then, of course, announce loudly that you’re doing that.

Alas, that’s not happening. Meanwhile, customers are griping, news outlets are spreading the story and Best Buy is looking kind of cold and careless.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Branding is back, baby!

For many B2B companies, the whole idea of brand building has taken a back seat in today’s economy. Everybody’s cautious with their investments, limiting their spending to price promotions and the like.

It’s understandable, but it’s also ill-advised. Why? Because in a shrinking market, you have to aggressively protect and grow your share. And you can’t do that by focusing on your products and services alone. Doing so only plays into the trap of commoditization.

We think it’s time to give brand building a little love again. Good thing we have this powerful tool nowadays that can help you build your brand directly and cost-effectively with customers. Maybe you’ve heard of it. It’s called social media.

Check out this decent primer in The New York Times on managing your reputation online (or, in other words, building brand equity).

Opportunities abound to connect with customers, solve their problems, anticipate new ones and cultivate trust every step of the way—exactly the vibe customers are seeking in these uncertain times. Social media is an excellent path to reinforce your brand and build the confidence your customers need to have for you to win their business. Yes, branding is back, baby! It’s online, it’s every day, and it’s here to stay.