Why brands like Diageo are moving from keywords to answers to deepen customer relationships
Brands need to progress from search keyword strategies to answering real-life questions, and in so doing will increase consumer engagement and insight.
Search has moved on since brands first started to chase clicks on those blue links back in the 1990s. Today’s marketers need to tap into the longer-form questions that have replaced keywords in consumers’ search behaviour and improve the answers they offer via Google, both to win a click and prevent it from going to a rival.
For drinks maker Diageo, this has meant working with search technology business Yext to build a product knowledge graph for brands like Baileys. This repository of facts about the cream liqueur brand boosts its chances of being able to answer customer queries on Diageo’s sites, as well as its information being presented in Google’s featured snippet on the search engine results page.
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At the Festival of Marketing, Benjamin Lickfett, global head of digital innovation at Diageo, explained there are several advantages to a modern search strategy. Being able to provide an answer to customer queries has the very obvious benefit that consumers get accurate information from a brand itself, not a third party. At the same, it also allows the company to build and maintain a closer relationship with its customers that taps into their love of a brand.
“If you think about Bailey’s for example, it’s a fantastic brand that’s very relevant in culture and linked to many passion points like baking, cooking and gifting” Lickfett said.
“For us, the idea is that we not only stay on top of how consumers interact with our brand, [but also] what they want to know about it. That might be anything from how many calories in Baileys, to how you get recipes… with Baileys. Understanding these requests, and [having] that intelligence to be able to serve content for that in real time, makes sure that we own the conversation.”
Diageo's Benjamin Lickfett on why the company needs to own 'the universe of Baileys'
Being central to this dialogue not only ensures consumers are getting answers from the brand itself, it also allows Diageo to stay on top of trends and changes in customer behaviour. This ability came into its own in the past year when consumers could no longer enjoy the drink in hospitality settings and so shifted consumption patterns to new home behaviours. By understanding search patterns, Diageo was able to move with them, armed with new content.
“We saw a big pickup in customers looking at teaching themselves how to do cocktails, how to pair spirits with food, and creating home experiences that would rival or equal those of the on-trade environment,” said Lickfett.
“A lot of interesting changes were happening, really, really fast. So for us, search data plays a really big role in understanding the intent of consumers and how that is shifting, and then being really agile in the way we produce the right content and have the right partnerships in place to make sure that we create great online experiences, and really enable our consumers to find the content and have a dialogue with our brands.”
Jon Buss, managing director of Yext, pointed out that owning these conversations with consumers via search is becoming increasingly important with the pace of adoption in the direct-to-consumer (DTC) sector and the subscription economy. Lickfett agreed and added that by searching for long-tail keywords, and through asking questions, consumers enter search enquiries with higher expectations they will get a definitive answer than in the past.
Forward-thinking organisations, he argued, need to be building up a knowledge graph of information about their brands, so that they can answer these queries. It’s a complex and ongoing task, he warned, but those who adjust to a modern approach of providing answers to searchers will be rewarded. They will build a closer relationship with consumers that allows them to tap into trends and understand shifts in behaviour. At the same time, he pointed out, they will also manage what facts are distributed about their brands, and stay in full control.
Buss offered a good example of the importance of this control. In the very earliest days of working together, Yext and Diageo discovered a search result for how many calories there are in a pint of Diageo-owned Guinness, where Google returned an answer box from a third party. Not only was this undesirable, the information offered was also wrong.
Modernising search strategy to ‘own’ those answer box results is not only a way of getting closer to the customer and keeping them from clicking on a competitor’s website, it is essential in ensuring misinformation about brands is not spread.
To learn more about how Yext can help your brand to build its own knowledge graph and deepen customer relationships, get in touch. ■