Yesterday was the relaunch of Google Marketing Live as an in person event. A few of our lucky US colleagues flew out to watch in-person, whilst some of our UK team bunkered down to watch it streamed live.
It followed on from Google I/Os exciting announcements around the advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and how they will start to affect how Google operates. The session was packed full of exciting announcements to come over the next few months.
We’ll have a more in-depth look at the features announced at the event in a future blog but today we wanted to take a step back and look at what this means for the future of Google and their marketing platforms.
There is an increased focused on multimodal search
What is happening?
What does multimodal mean? It means the mode in which someone can search. Search obviously has a long history in text search but Google are building their algorithms to be able to handle the changing way in which users search – including image, video and audio. For example, today they demonstrated the ability to whistle a tune to Google and it’ll find the track for you, or the ability to combine image and text within the same search to help find what you want. At the recent I/O event they also briefly demoed a future where search works with augmented reality (AR), showing someone in a physical store looking at a set of products. By pointing their phone at the products on the shelves it could recognise them and pull in things like customer reviews and ratings from across the web.
Why should we care?
Search’s future will become more integrated with other modes of search over time. The ability to take a picture (or copy it from a social feed) and find that product online, the ability to ask Google (either in text or via voice) more complicated questions like ‘I’ve climbed Snowden, what training do I need to do to climb to climb Ben Nevis’, the ability to see results overlaid against reality in augmented reality. All of this will be fuelled by data that Google will be able to read. That means marketers will need to make sure that all of their online assets work together collaboratively to tell an accurate story of products and services, availability, prices, imagery / video how-tos etc. Paid teams will not only have to work more closely with organic teams but also with creative and web experience teams. Businesses will have to become more digitally mature in order to stay competitive.
2. The funnel is dead, long live the messy middle
What is happening?
The ‘messy middle’ was a piece of work Google started referencing in certain arenas a few years ago but became more public around 2020 (more on it here.) It challenges the idea of a classic marketing funnel of Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action (AIDA) or even Google’s See, Think, Do Care. Within that body of work they argue that people don’t move through that funnel in an orderly fashion and it’s much more complicated than that. Google doubled down on that today, arguing that people move from passive to active rapidly; for example seeing a product within a YouTube video and going to purchase immediately.
With Google’s typical performance hat on they are leaning into AI and machine learning to get the best out of this. With PerformanceMax now the spearhead of their product development (which came with a raft of upgrade announcements), Google will blend your business objectives (the signals you give to Google such as conversion goals and conversion values; ranging from revenue and margin to phone calls and store visits), assets (text, image, video, product feeds) and audience data (first party data and site/app visitors) and push messaging across their various surfaces to get the best result given it’s bidding objective.
This, combined with making DDA the default measurement technique later this year, means that decision making about what users see at different stages of the journey is taken out of your hands at a detail level. What Google are asking you to do is give their algorithms variables they can use to test and get the best bang for your buck. This is further supported by announcements around e-commerce today which outlined plans to be able to tweak your messaging to a user based on whether they are part of your loyalty program or not, and will give advertisers the ability to show promotions of pricing changes depending on if the user is part of that program or not.
Why should we care?
We’ll see Performance Max increase in importance for clients within all verticals as it allows a performance led reach into the broader journey users go on. Ensuring that your business goals align to your tracking on site (if they don’t already!) is the key to getting the best out of this along with the capability to use a wider variety of assets. It’s rare PPC teams have demanded imagery or video with the same rigour as channels such as Paid Social – and both PPC and creative teams will have to get increasingly comfortable in aligning these sorts of assets with targeting objectives. It will also be important to ensure that learnings from Paid Social and Programmatic feed the strategy here (as well as best practices like creative fatigue).
3. Measurement (and privacy) will become more democratised
What is happening?
As the third-party cookie crumbles the advertising world has been looking at future proofing measurement. For larger advertisers this has meant a greater focus on MMM (Media Mixed Modelling) and for smaller advertisers, techniques like geo-split testing using CausalImpact has become increasingly normal as a way of justifying changes in strategy and confirming what parts of performance are actually incremental. These are typically specialist teams within agencies. Today Google announced improvements on both fronts – improving measurement for the MMM partners and integrating the ability to do geo-split testing directly within the platform.
They also continued the important narrative of making sure that measurement remains as robust as possible whilst being privacy safe – even predicting that two thirds of the global internet audience will benefit from GDPR style protection in the next year. A new Google tag replacing the Global Site tag was touched on, as well better integrations with measurement partners like HubSpot, Tealium, mParticle and others.
Why should we care?
This puts even further pressure on PPC teams to become slightly more generalist in their set-up. Not only being more comfortable with assets like video and image, but also measurement techniques and tagging which were typically more specialist roles.
It’s also fair to point out that Google marking its own homework is something to be wary of – many advertisers we work with have raised concerns around reporting such as Brand Lift in the past – so specialist teams still 100% have an important role in terms of measuring the overall marketing ecosystem, but the democratisation of these techniques for advertisers will help level the playing field for smaller advertisers.
The advent of Google Analytics 4 and the rising importance of PerformanceMax will also come under further scrutiny. We’ve already seen how this campaign type has had knock-on effects on SEO performance and didn’t necessarily drive the incremental benefits (although in our experience so far this is an edge case!)
Overall, an incredibly exciting session from Google. The developments AI has brought to marketing in the last five years alone are staggering – and some of Google’s technical achievements in this space (like building their own processing chip because they needed something to unlock growth, faster!) has been breathtaking. This truly felt like a radical push forward and not some tweaks on an old theme.
Many announcements took into account feedback around ‘everything becoming black box’ and development has focused on surfacing insights that the algorithms are making decisions on.
There are a raft of other exciting announcements not touched on here (like being able to go directly from Shopping result to retailer basket in one click) or the ability to integrate AR experiences into your Shopping results.
The future is incredibly complicated, increasingly integrated but undeniably exciting and feels like a whole new world. Onwards and upwards!
If you have any questions about anything mentioned in this blog, contact us today.