Research by Wunderman Finds Link Between Brand Building and Search Engine Use By Consumers

Feb 09, 2010, 09:46 ET from Wunderman

NEW YORK, Feb. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- Initial research conducted by Wunderman, BrandAsset® Consulting, ZAAZ and Compete has found that the search engine consumers use to find a brand's website impacts their perception of that brand and impacts their decisions made while they're on the site.

"Search begins with the choice of search engine," said David Sable, vice chairman and COO of Wunderman, one of the companies involved in the research. "What this means if you are managing a brand is this: you need to know how consumers relate to Bing, Yahoo! or Google and how that reflects on you."

In this first-of-its-kind research, loyal users of Bing, Yahoo! and Google were found to have distinct characteristics that benefit some brands more than others. The research was funded by Wunderman, BrandAsset® Consulting, ZAAZ and Compete exclusively.

"This research demonstrates that marketers have a real choice to make when formulating search strategies," said Shane Atchison, CEO of ZAAZ. "The search engine acts as a kind of 'train' on the Internet. Each train provides a different set of unique results or 'destinations.' Consumer preference for a specific train demonstrates a unique demographic and psychographic profile."

The research finds that the search experience on different search engines yields different results, with some being more relevant to the consumer than others. This, according to the research, contributes to overall customer and brand awareness. If the results of the search satisfy the needs of the consumer, then the search engine has greater appeal to that potential customer and he or she will have a deeper connection to the brand and the search engine. Therefore, the research indicates, search engines provide different degrees of a "brand lift" to the destination site.  

The study finds two distinct reasons why different brands do better with different search engines:

  • It's About Who You Are: The demographic and psychographic profile of each loyal search engine user is different. Bing users, for example, tend to be mostly from the tip of the adoption curve (innovators and early adopters) where Yahoo! and Google's passengers tend to be middle majority (see accompanying chart).  
  • It's About the Road You Take:  Each search engine delivers a different result, whether paid for or earned. In the brands and vertical categories studied (automotive, travel, retail, and wireless), each search engine demonstrated different degrees of consumer engagement ranging from visiting to finally purchasing.  

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Consumer search engine preference says something about, "who I am" and, "how I act." Within a product category, users of each search engine showed a propensity for enhanced involvement with a particular brand. Below are examples in three different categories.


In the case of Walmart, Bing's loyalists visit, shop, and, ultimately purchase more than other search engine loyalists.

                 Degree of
    RETAIL       Engagement      Bing         Google       Yahoo!
    ------       ----------      ----         ------       ------
    Walmart      Visitors        26.52%       25.21%       24.79%
    -------      --------        -----        -----        -----
                 Shoppers         5.11%        4.70%        4.78%
                 --------         ----         ----         ----
                 Converters       1.23%        1.06%        1.13%
                 ----------       ----         ----         ----
  • For category definitions of degrees of engagement, refer to legend below.

For Target and Amazon, Bing and Yahoo! are gaining on Google in converting its loyal users.  

                    Degree of
    RETAIL          Engagement      Bing       Google        Yahoo!
    ------          ----------      ----       ------        ------
    Target          Visitors        21.61%     22.63%        21.62%
    ------          --------        -----      -----         -----
                    Shoppers        3.03%       3.17%        2.66%
                    --------        ----        ----         ----
                    Converters      0.60%       0.68%        0.52%
                    ----------      ----        ----         ----
                    Degree of
    RETAIL          Engagement      Bing       Google       Yahoo!
    ------          ----------      ----       ------       ------      Visitors        42.50%     45.30%       37.13%
    ----------      --------        -----      -----        -----
                    Shoppers        8.82%      11.26%        7.95%
                    --------        ----       -----         ----
                    Converters      4.35%      5.91%         4.02%
                    ----------      ----       ----          ----


In the travel sector, the data indicates that Google leads the category in conversion.

                     Degree of
    TRAVEL           Engagement     Bing        Google        Yahoo!
    ------           ----------     ----        ------        ------      Visitors       5.89%        5.87%         5.14%
    -----------      --------       ----         ----          ----
                     Shoppers       5.10%        4.93%         4.25%
                     --------       ----         ----          ----
                     Converters     0.25%        0.33%         0.25%
                     ----------     ----         ----          ----
                     Degree of
    TRAVEL           Engagement     Bing        Google        Yahoo!
    ------           ----------     ----        ------        ------
    JetBlue          Visitors       3.34%        3.65%         2.70%
    -------          --------       ----         ----          ----
                     Shoppers       0.84%        0.92%         0.54%
                     --------       ----         ----          ----
                     Converters     0.03%        0.05%         0.03%
                     ----------     ----         ----          ----


Yahoo! loyal users showed a greater number of visits to AT&T Wireless websites than either Bing or Google users. In addition, Yahoo! loyal users were more likely to purchase wireless goods and services than Bing or Google users.

                     Degree of
    WIRELESS         Engagement     Bing        Google        Yahoo!
    --------         ----------     ----        ------        ------
    AT&T Wireless    Visitors       12.61%      12.80%        13.35%
    -------------    --------       -----       -----         -----
                     Shoppers       4.37%        4.76%         4.79%
                     --------       ----         ----          ----
                     Converters     0.11%        0.11%         0.14%
                     ----------     ----         ----          ----

Search engine marketing has become more competitive since the introduction of Bing within the last six months.  Despite longer tenures for Google and Yahoo!, Bing has established a foundation of loyal users whose engagement with brands is substantial.    


Google demonstrates category consistency from first visit through to actual purchase.  Google loyalists constituted a greater number of visits to Lexus websites than either Bing or Yahoo! users. Bing users show a greater number of visits and a propensity to buy Toyota than either Google or Yahoo! users.

                    Degree of
    AUTO            Engagement      Bing        Google        Yahoo!
    ----            ----------      ----        ------        ------
    Lexus           Visitors        0.42%        0.50%         0.39%
    -----           --------        ----         ----          ----
                    Shoppers        0.19%        0.21%         0.16%
                    --------        ----         ----          ----
                    Converters      0.05%        0.05%         0.04%
                    ----------      ----         ----          ----

"What this means for marketers is the need to choose their search engines wisely. The search engine which performs well at the brand level may not necessarily perform as well at the category level. Under spend on one search and you're likely leaving money on the table or in your competitors' hands," said Ed Lebar, CEO, BrandAsset® Consulting.

Research Methodology

The research concentrated on loyal brand search users of Yahoo!, Google and Bing investigating:

  • The correlation between brand awareness and search efficacy;
  • How search engines are changing consumer behavior;

Category Definitions of Degrees of Engagement

               AUTOS           RETAIL          TRAVEL         WIRELESS
               -----           ------          ------         --------
    Visitor    Site Traffic    Site Traffic    Site Traffic   Site Traffic
    -------    ------------    ------------    ------------   ------------
               Look at a       View product    Perform a
               specific        page, add item  search for a
               model, build    to shopping     hotel/flight/  View phones,
               and price, car  cart, compare   rental car,    plans, carrier
    Shopper    configuration   products        etc.           maps
    -------    --------------  -------------- -------------   --------------
                                               Purchase a
               Request a                       hotel/flight/
               quote, Dealer                   rental car,
    Converter  locator         Purchase        etc.           Purchase
    ---------  -------------   --------        -------------  --------

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