Protect Yourself from Industry Hype – Search Is What People Use When They Intend To Buy

This is the hype machine and the the hype machine is deafening.

Chugga, Chugga, Chugga the hype machine goes. That’s the sound of spinning yarns into memes and trends. Social media is the new this. Content is the new that. And so on.


Which is why I find this cold glass of water (or is it sand in the gear box?) from serial entrepreneur Kaila Colbin refreshing.

In the provocatively titled “Can We Please Stop Hyping Social As The Marketing Messiah?” Nathan Safran replaces assumptions with data. During the 2012 holiday season, for example, 34% of retail website visits came from search. 40% were direct. 2% — yes, a mere two percent — were from social.

Another study Safran cites has 15% of respondents always or often turning to social for shopping or product research, while 97% say they always or often turn to search. Search is obviously not the only possible marketing channel out there, but at least if your dogma is that “search is best,” you’ve got some stats supporting you.

I’m not a search marketer. And this post isn’t about search, it’s about our ability to reason and read between the lines. For instance, digital spending reports continue to baffle me. Up and up the spending goes; yet, so-called display ads are the worst of the worst ROI generators.

Can we trust our most trusted media sources today? Hell, can we trust our own media literacy?

Companies are about to spend $17 billion dollars on display ads this year, but only one tenth of one percent of the people who see these display ads will notice, or act. The information fails to justify. Either companies are throwing money down the hype-made drain for no good reason, or display ads work much better than reported.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.