The SEM branding problem (that current technology can’t solve)

Search Engine Market (SEM) has a branding problem, actually two, and big ones I may add.

The first one is that companies don’t spend the significant amount of money in SEM for branding purposes. Even though everyone can agree on the fundamental principle that users go through asearch funnel” when making a purchase (i.e. broad generic searches at first to learn more about the product category, followed by specific ones to conclude the purchase), very few digital marketers would be willing to spend money inupper funnelclicks ; this because it is harder to quantify their contribution to the final transaction, but really easy to see their (high) contribution to cost.

The second one is that no one in this space is willing to pay for what they cannot measure directly. Since the dawn of SEM, every company, technologist, and professionals in the space, based their pitch on the fact that they could finally offer to the ultimate form of trackable marketing: “the TV era is over, now you can understand and track your real contribution of your marketing dollars to the cent“. And marketers started believing it, to the point that no one would give SEM any credit for its brand value: everyone know is there, but since you can’t measure it, no one is willing to pay for it.

Photo credit of MKFeeney
Photo credit of MKFeeney

And while companies are desperate to find ways to spend additional money to move the needle marginally in one of the key constituents of branding (awareness, recall, consideration, intent), SEM is getting none of that budget. Not only that no one can accurately measure the correlation between awareness lift and sales lift, but in many cases the branding impact is given on faith. Don’t you believe me? Let me know if the following sentence sounds familiar: “This is the year of mobile, you want to reach teens, but they are leaving Facebook in droves, teens spend an enormous amount of time on mobile devices, you need to buy mobile ads.” And you do, regardless of the fact that tracking mobile ads is still very hard, surveying teens is often not allowed, and registering a lift at 90% confidence level requires volumes that very few networks offer. Since the value is there in theory, it becomes acceptable to invest. It’s the most classic example of deductive fallacy.

Why have marketers no problem accepting a high degree of uncertainty with ‘brand marketing’, but pretend absolute measurability when buying SEM?

It’s like two brain hemispheres:

  • The left one, where SEM lives together with scientists and mathematicians, can’t conceive a world that cannot be measured, analyzed, and studied in all its components;
  • The right one,  where Branding lives with artists and free spirits, things are done because they ‘feel right’, and questioning this logic means not belonging there in the first place.

Put the two together and you will have the perfect picture of the schizophrenic brain of today’s marketer.

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What You Need to Know for a Successful SEM Campaign

What I’ll discuss in this post should be hard-coded in every SEM-expert’s DNA, but since I found that a lot of people out there struggle in approaching Search Engine Advertising with a true holistic view, I thought it was worth spending a few words on it.

The content of this post originally comes from a slide a created for a training. When I showed it to a few colleagues to have some feedback on my “theories”, one of them said: ”Wow! This makes look what we do so complicated that if you give this slide to a media agency, they could virtually charge any fee for their service!”.

As a matter of fact trying to embrace all the different elements that make Search Advertising campaign successful in one single slide (and keep it simple at the same time), is quite a challenge! Moreover I feel like I’ve never been blessed with a superior data visualization ability that some people have, and let’s face it… my slide is pretty horrible for the time being!

I’ll let you be the judge…


So if you think you are able to represent in a nice visual way what I’m going to describe in the next few paragraphs, well my friend… we are in business!

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What would you like to see here?

When I created this blog I immediately created the About section, but I always struggled to fill it in. I'm not exactly sure what I should have published here. Starting looking at the Analytics data though, I soon found out that rouughly 1/3 of the people that was reading one of my posts, was then visiting tha About section (maybe wondering "who…

Planning an Online Advertising Campaign: if the Theory is so Simple, Why No One Executes Properly?

This week I’ve been in London to present to a group of Product Marketing Managers how to use online advertising to promote their products, and in particular, what are the metrics that they should be looking at to take data-driven decisions and shape the success of their campaigns.


The tricky part in all this is that most of the Product Marketing Managers thought that they had it all figured it out, but then when we then deep dived in the way the run their advertising campaigns, they couldn’t be further from the most basic concepts and best practices. (I had more than person saying that they some parts of the presentation were “too basic” for them).


One thing that most people forget about when launching an online advertising campaign is the planning and setup phase, which I believe is as critical as the managing and data collection steps.

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Mobile First: What to Consider for Your Business of Tomorrow

Mobile first” is a slogan often used to stress the importance of having a solid mobile strategy for today’s business, in order to be prepared for tomorrow’s competitive environment. But saying “Mobile first”, goes beyond the mere consideration of a mobile approach in the overall planning of a business, it makes it a priority in the management agenda.

As Eric Schmidt has remembered at the Mobile World Congress earlier this week, “mobile first” is a prerogative for Google, since all the products that are rolled out have to be optimized for mobile usage (i.e. mobile ready). Even if this is a first step, a mobile strategy goes far beyond simple device compatibility and UI optimization.

Thinking mobile is probably the best way to understand tomorrow’s user behavior, and therefore adapt your business strategy to the ever-changing competitive environment in which it operates.

I believe there is not just one angle to look at the “mobile first” philosophy, but there are many different aspects that should be taken in to consideration. Thanks to my exhibitor-pass, I was able to participate to the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and spot some very interesting trends that are going to define the way we are going to do business in the future (online and offline).

Allow me to present them and analyze their business implication:

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