By Frank J. Rich
Much of the tension in marketing is around words; which ones are used, for what reasons, how they combine, and to what end. Search appears to have taken over our lives; it is near impossible to acquire information without it. That is, watching a game of cricket reveals neither the thinking nor rules of the game. Indeed, how would we perform a search without words?
In forming today’s advertising model words are the fulcrum elements in the drive to results. Though often digital in their application, words are formed of analog processes—sight, sound, feel, and context or angularity. We are analog people, given to preparing everything we do from a “backbone” that is uniquely analog.
In fact, some 70 percent of searches are driven by some sort of offline media influence—originating in the thought that becomes behavior. The search words we use are most often (70 percent) misaligned with the thing we seek, and as often, misspelled. It’s a wonder how a search ever delivers a productive result. But it does; largely because algorithms that combine words, which represent thought, are borrowing from bits of a vast store of information indexed (in words) to form a model of the search. The more “words,” increasingly more relative to the unique behavior of the searcher in the database, the more likely a good result. Such an outcome satisfies the two key elements of an effective market exchange—relationship and a good customer experience.
It is said that we learn more about a person by what he writes than what he says. It is confirmed in my experience. Thoughtful moments, on paper, take more time and care to express, revealing meaning in both nuance and one’s logical train of thought. Not coincidentally, search requires attention to the method—that is, if we hope to find a productive end. Searches that lead to extraneous or oblique information fail to satisfy the goal. Such obliquity is the result in 70 percent of searches, though even these inform the gift of internet search—a pattern of behavior.
The phrase that words form, in search, does its job increasingly as data accumulate, and the pattern of consumers emerges. The words, it would seem, matter greatly. Now as before, the formation of our words brings us closer to the achievement of our goals.
Interestingly, the majority of impressions that influence search are found offline, as noted above. We are engaged by our senses in finding our direction and driving us to a goal satisfied. Though the keyboard may not appear to deliver a “sense” of one’s desires as their fingers walk across it in forming words and phrases, few would admit that setting a computer to the task of one’s bidding is less than an intuitive digitation of the mind’s purpose in that moment. Fewer still can learn while looking over the shoulder of helpful others fingering a keyboard. Doing delivers far better results.
As we travel through time, it is our senses that interact with the world around us—an analog world that forms impressions in our minds, words on our tongues, and the behavior that follows. Without the words—especially in a digital world—little of behavior is formed. No less, spoke N. Scott Momaday … “To be careless in the presence of words is to violate a fundamental morality.”