Monday, December 01, 2008

If you love them let them go

I was thinking that my most recent listen from was going to be a bit of a bore - the history of search.  Actually its quite riveting stuff.  Its easy to forget that the Internet revolution came from almost nowhere to almost everywhere in just a few short years.  One of the most interesting and captivating things to my mind is that so much of it was so concentrated in its creation in Silicon valley and more specifically the channels that lead there from Stanford University.

One of the most interesting insights that the search engine pioneers realised was that success comes to those who can send people where they want to go.  Now search is such an essential part of life this does not seem like rocket science.  Actually though it is counter intuitive.  Yahoo and Aol were obsessed at the same time as google was starting to get traction with keeping people in the portal - stickiness was the buzz word.  The search service that was offered by these portals was not seen as a source of strategic advantage but more than this it was seen as as a bit of nuisance.  The better your search the more people would leave your environment to go somewhere else where other people could make money out their presence.  This was of course before the ad words business model had been invented.

Until then nobody saw the strategic advantage of navigation, they just wanted you to go to  their pitch and never leave if possible.  This seems like ancient history now that search is all conquering.  Having said this there is an argument to say that beyond silicon valley very few other people have caught on.  I you think of your average brand websites they could be likened to suburban houses on the cul-de-sacs of the Internet.  Dead ends that might be a little bit pleasant but ultimately represent the narrowing of opportunity and the end of a journey.  I can imagine a meeting where some digital brand manager suggested that their brand could become a route to anything good online in the field that they opperate in.  I can also imagine the case being shot down by the argument that the big Portals used just a few years ago while search was changing the world.

Like so many things it seems like the exact opposite of the way we do things in marketing might be needed.  Brand destinations are actually launch pads.  The consumer journey should run straight through them to a whole other world of opportunity.  Pull this off and the right to be the gateway to the sector awaits.  The old adage could be true... if you love them let them go!


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