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Searching for Product Comparisons January 14, 2010

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Marketing Persona, Messaging, Social Media.
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Want to get some quick market research on how your product stacks up to a competitor?  Ask the Internet.

I teach a course at San Francisco State University entitled, “Essentials of Integrated Marketing.” In that course, I have a case study that has proven to be a lot of fun as well as very insightful when it comes to gathering “product comparison” data.  The case study is called Video Game Wars and follows the exploits of the Microsoft Xbox, Sony Playstation 3, and Nintendo Wii.

In developing the case study, I needed to somehow find a way to educate the class on these products quickly.  So, I turned to the Internet.  My first course of action was to do a Google search on each of the products.  This yielded the expected corporate-esk press releases, data sheets, and website info.  All of this was helpful in building “awareness.”   But I wanted more practical information when it came to comparisons.

So I tried a search variation.

I went to Google and Youtube looking  for specific product comparisons.   As an example,  I typed in “Xbox versus PS3” and “Why buy a Playstation?”  This produced an “Aha!” moment.

The search results provided a perfect example on how the dynamics of search have changed the way people gather and process information.  Here’s what I mean:

  • Much of the “product comparison” data I gathered was produced by users, not corporate executives.
  • I couldn’t help but feel that the more “unpolished” the presentation, the more genuine the information.
  • Many of these search results also included some sort of social media commentary, meaning that the material was actually being used and discussed.

Lest we think this is only useful for consumer products, I started testing this “product comparison” research tactic on a few projects I’m working on with B2B clients.  I’d do the same thing: go to Google and YouTube and search on “product A vs product B”.   In every case, I found very interesting information.  Now, while I don’t take everything I find to the bank, I do find that the results have added to my cumultative knowledge.  It’s helps to further my skills as an investigative marketer in order to discover which product differentiators are true and meaningful, and which are bogus.

Lesson for marketers

Based on this insight, it is important for marketers to consider a couple things as they are architecting their integrated marketing campaigns:

  1. Producing only the traditional marketing datasheets and collateral is no longer sufficient.
  2. There is a mountain of “awareness” information available; but customers are also keenly interested in product comparison data (see Content & the Buying Process blog post).
  3. Consider adding your own product comparison articles and videos.  Some companies do this already, and I applaud them for it.  Prospects are looking for this information.  Why not provide them with short snippets of useful information?  Otherwise, someone else might do it for them.
  4. As you develop your own marketing materials, do a comparison search to see what people are talking about.   Do your expectations match up to the user community’s reality?  Might be worth checking out.