Hunting or Gathering?

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by: Jonathan Salem Baskin

Google and Procter & Gamble are promoting their "innovative" collaboration to find ways to draw more online attention, having already done so for viewership of a video for Tide’s "Talking Stain" commercial (which I thought was absolutely hilarious).

The companies have swapped employees so they could learn more about one another, and then "reach consumers in new, user-driven ways." Google is contending with a decrease in ad budgets, and some evidence of consumers becoming less interested in clicking on online ads anyway. P&G has been challenged to deliver a value message to help sell its brands.

So does it make sense to be hunting for the future of Internet marketing? Or should they be gathering?

The hunting approach is to try and figure out where, when, and what to tee-up to consumers. The thought is that there are folks all but ready to buy something, so some complex math can identify and convert them. Brand messaging is the content delivered in the hunt.; success is measured by how much/often consumers consume the stuff.

A gathering approach would be to skip trying to tee-up branding to searchers, and instead give them information and a call-to-action for a next step. Care less about finding search queries relevant to the brand, and look more for instances to provide vale relevant to the consumer. 

Hunting drives clicks on branded entertainment, links to web sites, and visits to online stores; any relationship to actual sales is assigned to a statistical probability based on placement, rate, etc. 

Gathering satisfies people with useful information, and engages them in a meaningful conversation (subscribe to newsletter, access industry or other non-commercial data, participate in a community or social medium); the relationship to sales depends on how a business migrates these searchers toward purchase.

Hunting is a guess about where a target might be, and what will kill it. Gathering is a commitment to providing benefits to everyone, and focusing on nurturing them.

I wonder which approach is truly a vision for the future. I’ve always thought it was silly, and a bit circular, to reason that the purpose of an online branding strategy should be to promote branding. Do consumers really want branding when they’re looking for information in an Internet search? Is watching a video of a funny commercial really the best answer to their query (and use of the medium)?

Or might it make more sense to stop trying to read consumers’ minds, and instead provide meaningful information that invites them into an ongoing progression, or chronlogy with your company, that leads toward purchase (and repeat purchase)?

Is the future for P&G online search hunting, or gathering?

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