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Search at Chase: Direct Reponse Or Branding Medium?

Congratulations to AvenueA for winning the 2007 Yahoo Search award.

Having spent years as a direct response marketer, I admit I’m frankly mystified by the award writeup (emphasis mine):

This year Avenue A | Razorfish demonstrated that search campaigns can be used to build brand awareness, and that the message in search creative matters. This campaign made the case for developing “branding” search ads for high-volume keywords. Avenue A | Razorfish proved that a campaign building awareness around their client’s credit card program through search could be just as useful as one that drives users to sign up for the program.

Furthermore, the search creative reflected the branding messaging that was used in other media, both digital and analog. This is an incredibly powerful lesson, as the credit card acquisition space has historically been laser-focused on direct response metrics. The winning Avenue A | Razorfish campaign “shines a light” on a new strategy for measuring the power of search marketing as an awareness-building medium.

“Building awareness around their client’s credit card program through search is just as useful as one that drives users to sign up for the program”?!?

Sure — there might have been four or five target customers who weren’t aware of Chase before this marketing blitz, and this might have slashed that down to two or three.

The credit card space has historically been laser-focused on direct response metrics — because credit cards are perhaps the purest direct response business there is. The entire industry hinges on response: getting the most folks with the right credit risk to sign up for yet another card.

I’ve run financial services direct campaigns. I ran a direct mail team at Signet marketing investment and deposit products via direct mail, right after CapOne split away. Just like the catalog industry, we lived and died on response. We were laser-focused on direct response metrics, and because of that, we made our numbers.

The award commendation also praised Chase for matching search copy with their campaigns in other media.

70 characters isn’t all that much space, folks. I’d wager a fine dinner that ad copy focused on the benefits of the product would easily outperform corporate branding copy, whether measured by signups or by awareness metrics. For example, here’s CapOne’s current copy on Google for credit card: “Great rates and flexible rewards. Earn miles or cash back. Apply now.” CapOne stresses the benefits of the card to the prospect. That’s not branding copy; it is selling copy.

(And probably my colleague George Michie will chime in here loudly with our firm’s experience on the relative importance of ad copy in search campaigns. Bad copy is to be avoided, yes, but the improvement going from good copy to great copy is clearly a third-order effect, compared to the big levers of search — economic based portfolio bidding and fanatically comprehensive terms lists. But I’ll leave that full topic for George.)

This post is not a criticism of AvenueA — their client Chase wanted a certain marketing objective and the agency fulfilled the client’s objectives. Kudos to AveA.

Happy clients are the crucial metric for a marketing agency.

I’m just dubious that brand awareness is the right metric for Chase.

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  • Alan Rimm-Kaufman
    Alan Rimm-Kaufman founded the Rimm-Kaufman Group...
  • Comments
    4 Responses to “Search at Chase: Direct Reponse Or Branding Medium?”
    1. Jim Novo says:

      I don’t suppose they are going to share any metrics or test methodologies that help us understand exactly what the phrase “just as useful” means in terms of ROI?

      Count me as skeptical…

    2. So counted. Me, too.

    3. Historically, Yahoo’s Awards have been given to the agencies that 1) Increase the ad spend of their existing clients the most; 2) Sell the most of the particular service of the moment that Yahoo is pushing; or 3) Bring in the most new-to-Yahoo customers.

      That these are the criteria is not secret, they promote the awards to us that way.

      We’ve been solicited to chase these awards. As they have nothing to do with helping us reach our clients goals, we’ve assiduously avoided participating.

      Conspiring with Yahoo to sell snake oil is not award-worthy service in my book.

    4. Ramsey Fahel says:

      Do Not Mail Opt-Out Law would be fair to everyone.

      The proposed recent “Do not mail” is an Opt-Out law. Only those not desiring advertising mail need opt-out. Anyone desiring advertising mail can do nothing – and continue to receive it. Why deny those wishing to avoid advertising mail the power to do so?

      I do not consider handling unwanted advertising placed against my will on my personal property to be a civic obligation!

      The US Supreme Court said in the Rowan case in 1970, ““In today’s [1970] complex society we are inescapably captive audiences for many purposes, but a sufficient measure of individual autonomy must survive to permit every householder to exercise control over unwanted mail. To make the householder the exclusive and final judge of what will cross his threshold undoubtedly has the effect of impeding the flow of ideas, information, and arguments that, ideally, he should receive and consider. Today’s merchandising methods, the plethora of mass mailings subsidized by low postal rates, and the growth of the sale of large mailing lists as an industry in itself have changed the mailman from a carrier of primarily private communications, as he was in a more leisurely day, and have made him an adjunct of the mass mailer who sends unsolicited and often unwanted mail into every home. It places no strain on the doctrine of judicial notice to observe that whether measured by pieces or pounds, Everyman’s mail today is made up overwhelmingly of material he did not seek from persons he does not know. And all too often it is matter he finds offensive.”

      Furthermore, the Supreme Court said, “the mailer’s right to communicate is circumscribed only by an affirmative act of the addressee giving notice that he wishes no further mailings from that mailer.

      To hold less would tend to license a form of trespass and would make hardly more sense than to say that a radio or television viewer may not twist the dial to cut off an offensive or boring communication and thus bar its entering his home. Nothing in the Constitution compels us to listen to or view any unwanted communication, whatever its merit; we see no basis for according the printed word or pictures a different or more preferred status because they are sent by mail.”

      We need a nationwide “Do Not Mail” law to create a one-stop, convenient place for homeowners to give senders the aforementioned affirmative notice that we do not want certain kinds of mail sent to our homes.

      http://www.newdream.org/emails/ta19.html

      Signed,
      Ramsey A Fahel