Search and the Connected Brand

Please read the original post published on iCrossing’s Great Finds blog on October 8, 2012.

When iCrossing started as a search-based agency, the search industry was still in its early days, and consumers were still working to understand the exact benefits they could receive from search engines. Since then, we’ve seen the search industry evolve faster than expected, with consumers’ expectations changing right along with it. iCrossing has evolved, as well, into a full-services digital agency that builds connected brands for CMOs. In coming weeks, my iCrossing colleagues are going to discuss on Great Finds the many ways that search has evolved from a utility to an important component in building a connected brand, or a close relationship between the brand and its audience.

Search is more than a way for consumers find essential information about the price of the new James Bond Blu-ray box set or the location of your closest Banana Republic. People are combining search and social media to share ideas and connect with brands and each other.

For example, Expressionery is leveraging the power of blogging and social plugins for customers to easily share visual, engaging content with their peers and other target consumers. By creating blog posts around popular products, common questions, and industry trends, Expressionery answers questions from searchers and receives higher search rankings based on their site authority. Those posts, and the benefits they provide, are then shared via the brand’s social networks to engage with fans directly.

In addition, Expressionery fans can share their favorite products on Pinterest, showcase their creations on Facebook, and connect with the blogging community through detailed, thoughtful commentary. Each tactic improves the popularity of the brand and the relevancy of its products through search.

Throughout the course of our blog series, you’ll read about how search plays an integral part in today’s online media consumption, including social, mobile, creative, and content-based tactics, both on a local and a global scale.

Stay tuned for more from the iCrossing blogging team as we review just how important search is to our goal of building connected brands.

How Google Helped Me Get a Tattoo

Read the original post published on the iCrossing Great Finds Blog on August 23, 2011.

I recently used Google to find a tattoo.

Why should a senior marketer care? Because the tools I used to ornament my body with my fifth tattoo – ranging from Google Translate to Google Places – show vividly just how much Google has embedded itself into consumers’ everyday lives well beyond the act of doing a word search.

And the way I applied consumer reviews is a real-life application of the Google “zero moment of truth” – or the point at which I research a product or service.

Take a moment to check out how I found a tattoo using Google and ask yourself if you’re also employing Google’s many features to build your brand.

Finding a Tattoo Design

The way I, and many other people, work is that we decide we want to get a tattoo, then we decide where we want to put it, and then we decide what we want to get.

Since I knew I wanted a tattoo, and was pretty set on where I wanted it on my body, I turned to Google to do a bit of research to justify my chosen location. By Googling “Do shoulder tattoos hurt” I read that, while all tattoos may hurt, the shoulder is generally considered to be one of the least painful places.

do shoulder tattoos hurt

I found that news to be fantastic, as my last tattoo, a band around my ankle, was a literal pain.

Then it was on to finding out just what I wanted tattooed on my body for the rest of my life. I had a few ideas in mind – a Celtic knot, an owl, or an expansion of the small flower tattoo I currently have on my back. I used Google Translate to learn how to write and pronounce certain phrases in Gaelic but decided to use that for a possible tattoo in the future.

My tattoo would need to be perfect because it would be visible by more people than some of my other ones. This tattoo would need to depict something really pretty and artistic, with colors that I love (and definitely not anything from this site I found while performing a Google Search for “ugliest tattoos”).

ugliest tattoos

So I turned to Google Images to try to find some inspiration. I was able to see a lot of great ideas and color patterns from tattoos that were already finished. So I knew what the final product could potentially look like. This was a very helpful search as it helped me realize what would be nice, and what could be just plain awful.

Choosing a Shop

Some of you may know that I haven’t been here in Arizona long (just under a year) and finding almost anything new requires me to visit Google Maps consistently. Obviously, then, it was a priority to find a good tattoo shop here in the Phoenix metro area.

At first I wanted to find a shop near the iCrossing Scottsdale office so that I could swing by for my appointments on my way home from work.

Google Maps

Using Google Maps and its “Search Nearby” feature, I was able to find quite a few tattoo shops on my way to and from the office.

tattoo near icrossing

But, just finding the locations wasn’t going to be enough. It was time to dig into each of these locations’ Google Places pages and see what kind of information I could find there. Not only did I find contact information for these shops, but I also saw their websites, images of some of their work, and also user reviews of the shops themselves.

The reviews posted within the Google Places pages were incredibly important to my decision on where to get my tattoo. In one instance, I had found what I thought to be a nice shop with a nice website in a location close to the office. But after reading the reviews, I discovered the location is unsanitary and the tattoo artists are rude. This is not the type of place I want to go.

Eventually I expanded my search closer to where I live and was able to find a shop that had positive reviews on Google, as well as on Yelp and Kudzu. I was even able to read about the best tattoo artists at this shop. So now I know who to ask to be my artist.

Learning from real customer experiences is key when choosing to go to any business, and Google does a great job of pulling those reviews into its new Places page format.

Also, by Googling the shop’s name, I was able to see that it has an A+ Better Business Bureau rating. This important information definitely helped me ensure I made the best choice.

Getting to the Location

When I go over to the shop later this week for my consultation with the tattoo artist, I’ll be able to get there easily by using one more Google product – the Google Maps app on my phone.

All I have to do is type in the address of the shop, and the app will give me turn-by-turn directions on where to go, and how long it’ll take to get there. This is another feature I use constantly while navigating through the city, and I definitely trust it to get me to where I need to be.

Even though I don’t have my new tattoo just yet, I’ve got my plan all worked out – what I’m getting, where it will be placed, which shop to go to, how to get there and who to ask for when I arrive.

It seemed like second nature to use Google to help me make all these decisions, and the amount of knowledge available in the search engine is enough to do just that.

I challenge you to see just how often you use search engines daily, and how they have changed some of your habits. How has search helped, and what could Google do to help you more? Leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.

And if you want to know what kind of tattoo I’m getting, you’ll have to stay tuned into my Twitter account. I’ll be tweeting the tattooing process and pictures as it’s completed!