Carl Klevbo, lead analyst at MyTelescope, explains how and why share of search has emerged as an accessible way to measure brand awareness and forecast market dynamics. We discuss the origins of share of search, its benefits over conventional research methods, and the correlation between brands’ share of search and market share. Carl provides examples of share of search in action and how the MyTelescope SaaS platform is supporting agency strategists and account planners.
Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS:
Carl Klevbo: The actual search isn’t what impacts the share of market. It’s what the search represents. So, an increase in share of search means that there’s an increase in demand in the market for your brand, and that, in turn, increases your share of market.
Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on marketing and advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye, a strategy-led, full-service, creative agency growing brands for clients globally. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us. Brand managers often face challenges when trying to accurately calculate the total market size and their brand’s share of that market. Determining these figures usually requires access to reliable, typically syndicated market research data, which can be expensive to obtain, especially for smaller challenger brands and those in unmeasured markets. For advertisers, figuring out the appropriate level of investment in media to effectively reach target audiences and influence market share is a similarly complex task, requiring knowledge of the competitive landscape and consumers’ behavior within the appropriate category. Brands on a growth trajectory can seek to capture excess share of voice, essentially outspending their competitors relative to their market size. But what if you don’t know a brand’s market size and don’t have access to syndicated data? Over the past three years, research has found significant positive correlations between the share of branded search terms and brands’ share of market. A study published last year by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising found the correlation between share of search and share of market across 30 case studies and 12 categories was an average of 83 percent. Today’s guest is an experienced digital marketer who’s been instrumental in promoting and operationalizing share of search, not just as a proxy for share of market, but also for forecasting market dynamics. Carl Klevbo is the lead analyst on the founding team at MyTelescope, a platform that uses share of search data to help brands and agencies understand the emotional and behavioral impacts of their marketing strategies. Carl has over a decade of professional experience in marketing and research, and to discuss how MyTelescope supports strategists and planners working with share of search data, Carl is joining us today from Stockholm in Sweden. Carl, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS.
Carl Klevbo: Hello, Adrian. Thank you so much for having me on.
Adrian Tennant: Carl, could you start by explaining what share of search, or SOS for short, is?
Carl Klevbo: Absolutely. So, in its simplest form, share of search is simply the searches for your brand’s name versus the sum of your competitors’ brands’ names. And this might sound quite trivial if you’re hearing this for the first time. So why is this important? So let’s look at what somebody taking time out of their day to search for our brand reveals to us. First of all, it means that a potential customer is actually aware of your brand. So, it helps you understand awareness. Secondly, it reveals that they’re actually interested in us. And this is a super important distinction because, as David Ogilvy, the father of advertising once said, “You cannot bore people into buying your product. You can only interest them in buying it.” And what David Ogilvy says here is actually backed up by our research and the IPA’s research that shows that if you raise interest and you subsequently raise the branded searches, that has a very strong correlation to increasing your sales. Essentially, it’s a way of knowing if you’re creating more people who are aware and considering buying from your brand in relation to your competitors.
Adrian Tennant: Got it. And I just want to be clear: what’s the equation again?
Carl Klevbo: So the equation of shared search is the volume of searches for your brand’s name versus the total sum of the volume of searches for your competitors’ brands.
Adrian Tennant: Okay. How does share of search help planners and strategists understand consumer demand and market dynamics?
Carl Klevbo: Well, first of all, it gives us a very reliable and also available way of tracking our brand building, which frankly, a lot of marketers have been missing. And it allows us to show, first and foremost, how our actions are actually contributing to future sales. And if we’re winning or losing in our category, and when we lack a metric like that, which quite a lot of us do, our budgets are the first to be cut as soon as times are tough. And unfortunately, we can see that all around us right now.
Adrian Tennant: I mentioned in the intro that we’ve been looking at this kind of data for about the past three years. So, Carl, how did share of search as a metric originate?
Carl Klevbo: Yeah, like so many, many great discoveries, as soon as it becomes viral, everybody claims to have used it before. And that’s also the case for us at MyTelescope as well. We had actually started playing around with this metric to show demand for our clients’ brands versus competitors because we thought it made sense, but we were almost too hesitant, and frankly embarrassed, to show the source to our customers because it seemed a little bit too simple and a little bit too good to be true. And that was the case for many out there. And since you’re asking for the metric, a data point isn’t really a metric until you can unify the industry and the organization around it. And that first happened when the effectiveness godfather, Les Binet, along with James Hankins, published their research, proving that there was actually a very significant correlation between share of search and market share. And since then, share of search has become more and more of a standard as marketing associations like the IPA in England and the Swedish Advertisers Association have rallied behind it along with a host of global organizations, both on the agency and on the client side.
Adrian Tennant: Well, you mentioned that it’s a very accessible metric, so let’s just remind ourselves of the ways in which share of search differs from traditional market research methods and metrics.
Carl Klevbo: Absolutely. So before I get started, I just want to say that traditional market research is great, but there’s no controversial secret that it does have its flaws, that many people find it quite expensive, slow-moving, and that it doesn’t always reflect sales all too well. And forgive me, I’m going to quote David Ogilvy again here, who actually identified this problem already back in the 60s or 70s. And he said that “The trouble with market research is that people don’t think what they feel, they don’t say what they think, and they don’t do what they say.” And what that entails is that if you ask somebody what they are going to do in the future, they might not be honest, and they might not do what they said they would do, even if they were honest. And if you look at share of search analysis, on the other hand, you aren’t actually creating any new data like you would in a survey. You’re simply observing and analyzing existing behavior. And many people forget that search is essentially the world’s biggest source of behavioral data. Now, if we compare this to a survey where you force somebody to have an opinion regarding a brand, which we know most people don’t, at least not on a conscious level, and you combine that with the fact that it’s a primary behavioral data source, along with its strong connection to sales, it makes for a very solid data point to use to represent your brand and to get a realistic idea of the effects of your brand building efforts on real behavior and changing real behavior might sound sinister, but essentially that is the end goal of any marketer that you want to create some form of change in behavior that could be sales, for example.
Adrian Tennant: Many people listening will have already wrapped up their planning for fiscal year ‘24, but can share of search be used to predict future market trends?
Carl Klevbo: So I absolutely love this question, and it’s a fascinating topic within the share of search community. And if you look at a purchase cycle, the majority of people instinctively start with a search on Google when they’re considering making a purchase. And Google themselves recently released a study showing that the majority of people search even if the end purchase is at a physical store. And we can see this within our search data as well, in what we call the predictive lag that exists. And that is the time between an initial increase in searches for a brand with the subsequent increase in sales that the brand gets. So, for some car brands, we can see that searches actually predict market share movements up to six to nine months in advance. So, that example is how searches can predict sales. But another great case is that during COVID, we could actually predict in what cities COVID-19 would spike based on search data. Because what do you do the moment you start to feel something strange going on in your body? I mean, personally, I immediately go to Google, and I Google the symptoms until I get scared enough to do something. And what we saw in our data was exactly that it would start with an increase in searches for COVID symptoms in a city. And then, the reporting of official new cases would happen a week or so after that. So, by looking at Google data, we could predict actual, people going to the hospital.
Adrian Tennant: Could you briefly explain the relationship between three metrics: a brand’s share of market, or SOM, its share of voice, or SOV, and its share of search?
Carl Klevbo: Yeah, absolutely. So share a voice or how much do you put into to media spend correlates extremely well to your share of search. And as we discussed earlier, your share of search, in turn, correlates to share of market. So what you’re left with is kind of a funnel. And that’s exactly what I recommend to our clients to do so you put your share of voice next to your share of search, which is the effects of your marketing next to your share of market, which is how well that has converted. And if you look at that, and then you see that we raised our share of voice, but it doesn’t lead to an increase in share of search, then you know ahead of time that you’re spending too little or on the wrong things because you’re not raising the demand for your brand. However, if you do raise your share of voice and it does raise your share of search, but it doesn’t raise your share of market, then what does that mean? Well, it means that you’re successfully creating demand with your share of voice, but you have an issue with the conversion of that due to either price or distribution. And, we have a case like that, that we can cover later on actually for one of our clients.
Adrian Tennant: Does a change in share of search affect share of market?
Carl Klevbo: So yes and no. The actual search isn’t what impacts the share of market. It’s what the search represents. So, an increase in share of search means that there’s an increase in demand in the market for your brand and that, in turn, increases your share of market.
Adrian Tennant: Carl, you’re a lead analyst and on the founding team of MyTelescope, which is a share of search tool that enables brands to understand the impact of their marketing. So, what was your professional journey before joining MyTelescope, and how did it lead you to share of search?
Carl Klevbo: Yeah, so I grew up abroad and moved around a lot. And I think from this, I learned to study human behavior, of the people around me for basically what was, you know, survival reasons. But when I was 18, I got the chance to continue doing this, but in the world of marketing, where I started with essentially serving coffee at this point, but this quickly led to assisting PR and marketing projects, and then a research role, which in turn snowballed into meeting and helping the founders of what is now MyTelescope. Research multiple data sets and methodologies in order to find a new way to prove the business effects of brand building. And this was something I did while I was studying economics. And got a chance to work with a bunch of different market research tools. So I was working with everything from, you know, brand surveys, telephone interviews, modeling brand indexes, analyzing social listening data, and then finally to share of search. And, uh, yeah, ever since Les Binet came out with this research, things have grown exponentially from there. And now I manage training agencies and brands worldwide on this concept, running continuous analysis projects, and then I’ve also got him to be a part of the Share of Search Council.
Adrian Tennant: Well, we’ll talk about those in a moment, but I’m curious: what are the common challenges faced when interpreting share of search data? And how does MyTelescope help overcome them?
Carl Klevbo: Yeah. So, the mistake that many people make is that they’ll start their journey with Google Trends. And what they’ll be left with is a lot of manual work and data that is sort of all over the place without any real way of explaining it. And first off, at MyTelescope, we make sure to have the best quality data which currently is the search volume data that you can get from Google itself. Secondly, we’ve built a platform that really automates your setup and tracking as much as possible and brings you tools to track your campaigns, et cetera. So it’s really built for strategists and planners rather than SEO experts as many other tools are. So, really, what you get is a nice, fully automated dashboard with you and your competitors’ brands, what has driven your success, and an AI summary of what has happened for your brand and category.
Adrian Tennant: From a strategist or an account planner’s perspective, what are the features that MyTelescope provides that are probably most helpful or practical?
Carl Klevbo: So I think the most practical part is that a lot of strategists and planners don’t have that much time to spend on manually going through a ton of data. And I think the first thing that the platform does is that it serves the insight in a very, very easy to take in way. Secondly, it also allows you to see what is driving the effects of your brand. So, when you see an increase in branded searches for your brand, you can also explain why that happened. And if you’re lucky, you can actually see actual keywords relating to your campaigns. And, finally we do have the event plotter. So basically, you can put in all the campaigns you’ve had over the year, and you can then get a summary of the effects that those have created for your brand.
Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message.
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Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Carl Klevbo, Lead Analyst at MyTelescope. Can you explain the process of collecting and analyzing share of search data using MyTelescope?
Carl Klevbo: Yeah, so basically, when you type in your brand, the system will then scrape the web for search keywords. So what people have searched for in combination with your brand name, and we deliver that to you so that you can then select which ones represent your brands, and then that will be visualized in a graph where you can follow how your brand Is coming along.
Adrian Tennant: We love practical examples on IN CLEAR FOCUS. So Carl, could you share some use cases that illustrate how brands and agencies are using MyTelescope to inform their marketing strategies?
Carl Klevbo: Absolutely. So we have a ton of great cases, but one that I really like is the biggest premium retailer in Southeast Asia called MapActive. And they had the challenge of managing hundreds of brands like New Balance and Foot Locker, etc., in multiple markets. And it just wasn’t realistic to conduct brand tracking surveys, you know, for each brand and market, because they’re just so global, but they still needed a metric to hold their brand building accountable for driving growth. And they had heard of share of search and adopted MyTelescope for all of their brands and markets. And they tracked their top-level activities and saw if they raised their branded searches. And they saw that those campaigns were also the ones that were driving their sales. So, first of all, they use it as an effect metric. But they also used it to track the purchase funnels. And when they were analyzing the relationship between the branded searches for one of their sneakers, they saw that for one of the brands, they did create an uptick in brand searches, but it didn’t create an increase in sales. And they started asking like, “Why is this?” And what they found was that there had actually been a specific issue with that shoe in the store, resulting in it not converting into sales. So they could see: “We spent this much, we did create a lift in brand searches, so we did create an effect with our marketing, but we had an issue with the conversion later on.” So yeah, they were very happy to be able to use MyTelescope in that case.
Adrian Tennant: Hmm. I really liked how Mats Georgson interpreted the data you shared, highlighting the ways in which Ukrainian customers ordered products from Zara in Poland when stores in their own country closed due to the war. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Carl Klevbo: Yeah, so I think this is just such a great example, both because it shows the value of tracking branded search, but it also shows the long term effects of marketing. And I was given this case by our amazing team of developers in the Ukraine. So I just want to give a shout out to them. And they reported that when the Russian invasion began, all of these Zara stores shut down, essentially both online and in real life. And all of Zara’s marketing was stopped. So what happens when a brand shuts down all marketing? Does it die out instantly, or what happens? Well, what we did see was that there was an immediate drop in demand for Zara as the war started, but then something strange happened. Slowly but surely, the branded search started returning, and eventually it reached basically the same level as it was before the war. And it turns out that Zara had done such a good job of creating a strong brand that, regardless of the war, customers were still trying to find ways to get their products. So they had actually found a loophole where they were buying it from neighboring countries, such as Poland. And I think this is just such a great example because you can see that through the branded searches, that if you do actually build a strong brand, the effects will continue being top of mind and driving sales long after marketing is done.
Adrian Tennant: Well, of course, here in the States, Nike recently appointed a new Chief Marketing Officer, and you published an article showing how MyTelescope provides some context around what she’s walking into.
Carl Klevbo: Yeah. So I did see that news, and it made me a little bit curious as to why they would change CMO. Of course, he’s been there for a long while, so it’s, of course due eventually. But I set up an analysis against the biggest sportswear brands out there. So Adidas and Puma. And what I actually saw was that Nike, over the last 12 months, had actually dropped in share of search by 20%. So regardless of the reason why they changed CMO, the new CMO is walking into a tough situation, so it’ll be interesting to see how she tackles that.
Adrian Tennant: Hmm. Spending more on advertising than competitors relative to a brand’s market is defined as Excess Share of Voice, or ESOV. Does this show up in share of search data?
Carl Klevbo: Yeah, absolutely. So we see an extremely strong correlation between excess share of voice reflecting in creating excess share of search, which we talked about earlier, leads to excess share of market. So that’s a way to look at it. But what I think is also super interesting when you talk about share of voice is that it has had its flaws. I might say that most share voice data doesn’t reflect the entirety of what is being spent because it often neglects what is being spent in some of the digital campaigns as well as PR campaigns. So when you have a metric that correlates very well with share of voice, like share of search, you’ll sometimes see a bump in share of search that can’t be explained by share of voice. So, on paper, they haven’t increased their spend. But you can see something happening in your share of search. So sometimes you’ll see that, that actually captures things that have gone unnoticed by share of voice tracking. or it can just be that a brand has had some organic spread beyond what is actually controlled by the marketers.
Adrian Tennant: MyTelescope has users around the world, so I’m curious, Carl, are you seeing share of search vary across different categories, countries, or languages?
Carl Klevbo: Yeah, so we have the possibility to really look into any country around the world with the exception of a handful of countries. In general, people are people, so we don’t really see any differences in the correlation between branded search and sales around the world. What we do see is a difference in different categories, and that relates to the purchase cycle of different categories. An example of this might be comparing the purchase cycle of a car to a shampoo bottle. In the category for cars, we’ll see that the lag time between searches increasing due to a brand campaign, for example, and the sales increasing might be six to nine months. just because it takes a longer time to buy a car or to consider which one you’re going to buy. But for a shampoo bottle, for example, it might be instant or the next week.
Adrian Tennant: We’ve talked quite a bit about demand-building versus demand-harvesting media and creative on IN CLEAR FOCUS this last year. Based on what you’re seeing, it sounds like there are some differences in share of search data between those broad-reach brand-building media campaigns and more targeted, performance-oriented advertising, where, as you say, the purchase cycle is typically going to be shorter, is that right?
Carl Klevbo: Absolutely. Yeah. and I have to say, I love talking about marketing as demand building and demand harvesting contrary to brand building versus performance, because when you talk about it like that, it just implies how both work together and need each other to work. And what we see in share of search, what best boosts it is, in fact, brand building, broad reach media campaigns that have the biggest impact on creating share of search. So it’s definitely a demand-building metric rather than a demand-harvesting metric.
Adrian Tennant: what has been your most interesting or surprising finding while working with share of search data?
Carl Klevbo: I think one of the interesting things that you can see with share of search data and with any effect metric that isn’t just a vanity metric is that quite a few campaigns don’t actually impact brands all too much. Peter Field right now is doing this great work called The Cost of Dull, basically talking about the extreme amount of waste that goes into media on advertisements that aren’t actually that interesting. And so that is definitely something we can see in our data as well, that there are definitely some campaigns that create no spike in interest for the brand at all.
Adrian Tennant: We’ve talked a lot about attention over the past couple of years, but creative effectiveness is still super important.
Carl Klevbo: Absolutely. And I think it’s about being creative, but also creating an interest in the brand and creating a behavioral change. And it can be a small one, like just typing in the brand’s name, but I think there’s no better way to predict a change in behavior than with behavioral data like search.
Adrian Tennant: AI is integrated into the latest version of MyTelescope. Carl, what role do you foresee AI playing in enhancing the capabilities of share of search analysis going forward?
Carl Klevbo: Yeah. So I think the role of AI in share of search really comes down to the fact that there’s just so much data. There are 90,000 searches, every minute, I believe. So, there’s just so much data out there, for you to start digging into, but our time is limited. So, having an AI that can scan this data and bring automated analysis based on it, I think would be a complete game changer.
Adrian Tennant: Carl, do you have any plans to integrate Amazon search query performance data in MyTelescope?
Carl Klevbo: Yeah, we are actually agnostic to the source of search data that we bring into the analysis. We see that Amazon search data plays a role further down the funnel than Google search data does, but that when somebody is actually searching on Amazon, they are very ready to buy. So we are definitely looking to implement that in the future along with social search such as TikTok.
Adrian Tennant: Forty percent of Gen Z start searches on TikTok these days, rather than Google. So interesting to hear that you have TikTok in your sights.
Carl Klevbo: Absolutely. No, I believe that there is a lot of potential, and I think there are a lot of misunderstandings in regard to social search. I believe that social search, like TikTok, is very much an inspirational phase of your search. And once you have a brand or a product that you’ve been made aware of via the social search, then you’ll go into Google to understand, “Where can I buy this? What’s the price? Can I learn more about the brand?”And then eventually, when the time’s right, you might actually go straight to Amazon and search and purchase it there.
Adrian Tennant: Carl, does share of search work for all categories, and is it equally useful in B2C as well as B2B?
Carl Klevbo: So, great question. We get this question quite a lot, and it was actually one of the big questions that we were asking ourselves when we first started looking into this. And what we’ve seen in our studies is that even though there’s a small amount of people who do search, those represent the broader public and the searches do correlate well with sales, even in those cases. So that’s on the FMCG side. We’ve tested that out on all types of different cases that we never thought would work, such as ice cream, pasta, chips, chocolate, beverages – so a number of weird ones! And in regards to B2B, we see that in the same way there; the way people search for B2B brands correlates well with their sales, but the search might be at a different stage in the purchase journey than it would for a B2C brand. And an example of this might be that within a B2B sales, I might be approached by a seller, and I might not actually search for that company until the last stage where I’m actually considering buying from them, and I’m doing my due diligence. But in the end, there’s almost always somebody who searches, as long as your brand is somewhat known.
Adrian Tennant: You’ve been instrumental in establishing the Share of Search Council. You referenced it earlier. Could you tell us a bit about what that is and what its mission is?
Carl Klevbo: Yeah, so the goal of the Share of Search Council is really to be an independent organization to further the research and the development of the metric. And we want to keep that separate from MyTelescope because of course, we have a commercial goal as well. But, the Council consists of both people who have been instrumental in the creation of the metric, such as Les Binet, but also CMOs and agency members actively using the metric operationally. And we’ll occasionally get together to discuss best practices and how we can further the use of this within the marketing industry.
Adrian Tennant: What advice do you have for listeners who are intrigued by the potential of share of search and want to learn more about its applications in brand planning and strategy? Are there any webinars, papers, or podcasts that you would want to recommend?
Carl Klevbo: So I would definitely recommend listening to Les Binet’s talks on share of search on YouTube. And I’ve tried to do it justice here, but there’s nobody who does it as eloquently as Les. After that, of course, you are more than welcome to look at our LinkedIn and YouTube channel, where we host webinars on how to use share of search more operationally. And we also post daily insights, which allow us to, you know, stay up to date with how brands and trends are actually performing. Another person that I’d recommend actually, if you’re looking at share of search from an SEO perspective, is Andrew Holland, who’s been talking a lot about, share of search from the SEO’s perspective.
Adrian Tennant: Great. Thank you. Are there any upcoming features or events from MyTelescope that we should be looking out for?
Carl Klevbo: Absolutely. So, if you are interested in trying share of search out for your business, I would definitely check out our newest updated version of MyTelescope. And, in this newest version, we are training now a sophisticated AI to basically feed you insights on your brand and market based on real time primary data. And apart from that, you can always follow us on LinkedIn and social channels where we’ll be posting about upcoming webinars. So, yeah, look there to stay updated.
Adrian Tennant: Carl, if IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners are interested in learning more about MyTelescope, what’s the best way to do so?
Carl Klevbo: So the best way to learn about MyTelescope is to follow us on LinkedIn, MyTelescope, and you can also visit us at MyTelescope.io, where we have a bunch of resources on the concept of share of search. We have our share of search tool that you can trial for free. And we have a bunch of insights that we publish almost daily on brands and trends that are current right now.
Adrian Tennant: Carl, thank you very much for being our guest this week on IN CLEAR FOCUS
Carl Klevbo: Thank you so much for having me, Adrian.
Adrian Tennant: Thanks again to my guest this week, Carl Klevbo, Lead Analyst at MyTelescope. As always, you’ll find a full transcript of our conversation, along with links to the resources we discussed, on the Bigeye website at bigeyeagency.com – just select ‘Podcast’ from the menu. Thanks for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.