This month we have chosen Allison Mooney, Head of Insights & Trends at Google and Editor-In-Chief of Think With Google. We highlighted Think With Google as a selection in our March 2015 issue, and noted that it "surfaces insights unavailable elsewhere and is particularly valuable for trends research." We also said the site was "fascinating, informative and fun."
Allison is based in New York City, and before working at Google founded IRL Productions, an engagement marketing agency; and has served as VP, Emerging Trends at MobileBehavior and Director of Trends & Research at global public relations and marketing agency Fleishman-Hillard.
Below is an edited summary of our interview, conducted via email last week.
Q. Can you provide a little background on the origin of Think With Google?
A. Think with Google launched in early 2013 and was originally called Think Insights (taking the name of a research-focused website from which it evolved.)
We spoke with a lot of our partners about how we could best help them access the same data, analysis and insights that inform our own strategies, and Think With Google was a result of those conversations. It’s intended to be a resource for everything from high-level insights to deck-ready stats to useful tools. We publish the data we’re exploring and the trends we’re tracking along with forward-looking perspectives and behind-the-scenes looks at digital campaigns —across industries, platforms and audiences.
Q. How do you decide which topics to tackle?
A. We look at a number of factors when deciding what to cover, including:
- Big cultural moments and seasonal events that marketers care about
- Popular and rising consumer trends on Google and YouTube
- Topics that users are searching for on our site
- Qualitative audience research and feedback
- Hot topics in the marketplace
On an ongoing basis, we’re looking at the data and listening to our audience to see what’s resonating (or not). We use that feedback to inform our content strategy moving forward, including the topics we cover, the formats we use, the way we craft content, as well as our promotional efforts.
Q. Can you walk through, in a simplified manner, the steps leading to a Think With Google article?
The process depends on the type of piece we’re doing, but I’ll walk you through one of our Data Insights pieces. I work with a team of data analysts to develop this content, and here are the steps we follow:
1) What’s the topic and when should we cover it?
We build pipeline of content that aligns with the broader marketing calendar, company priorities, seasonal events and news hooks.
2) What are the trends in this space?
We do online research, talk to experts, and brainstorm with internal partners to figure out what we should cover and how.
3) Can we validate these hypotheses with our data?
We look at Google and YouTube data through proprietary and public tools like Google Trends, and we run Google Consumer Surveys to see if these trends bear out. If not, then we don’t write about it. Our aim is to add data-driven insights to the conversation, not repeat what’s already been said. In the process, we want to show marketers how they themselves can discover consumer, category, and cultural trends through our data.
4) What else do we need to tell the story?
We’re a data-driven company and believe that it’s incredibly powerful, but it can’t stand on its own. We turn to other sources — third-party research reports, news articles, client case studies, and interviews with consumers and experts — to tell a story, provide color, and add support to our findings.
5) Can we map this to a broader theme?
We pull out the “so what’s” for our readers, laddering insights into higher level themes that have implications for marketers.
6) How can we package it in the most compelling way?
We think about the best format to present the content on all of our external channels as well as for internal audiences.
Q. Based on your experience with working with large data sets to identify patterns and trends, what would you advise those new at data analysis to be careful about—e.g. pitfalls, using data sets inappropriately, common mistakes etc.?
A. Generally, it’s important to remember that data alone are not insights. Insights may be born from data, but it’s people who see into the data and develop insights.
Specifically as it relates to Google Trends data, it’s important to remember that:
It shows search interest relative to everything that people are searching vs the absolute number of searches. A great example is the term “science,” which shows a decline since 2004. It’s not necessarily true that fewer people are searching about science, just that more people are now searching for other things.
Terms can be ambiguous (e.g. jobs vs. Steve Jobs, hangover the movie vs. an actual hangover). When you start typing into the search box you'll see topic predictions, which make it easy to do a fairer comparison.
Results are normalized against one another – you can’t compare terms you’ve searched separately.
Q. Are there a few new business related insights or trends that you published recently and think might be particularly interesting to business researchers?
A. Here is all of our content covering specific industries and here are some recent articles:
- Retail: Omni-Channel Shoppers: An Emerging Retail Reality
- Gaming: Think Gaming Content Is Niche? Think Again
- B2B: The Changing Face of B2B Marketing
- Financial Services: Money Matters: Finance Trends Throughout the Year
- Beauty: The Looks We Look For: Makeup Trends Throughout the Year
Q. A lot of diverse information is presented on Think With Google? What ties it all together?
Digital innovation continues to propel the marketing industry forward, and the pace is mind blowing. At Google, we use research, analysis and insights to stay ahead, and Think with Google is our way to share all of this with our readers.
We see Think with Google as a place to talk to business decision makers at brands and agencies about digital marketing strategies, emerging consumer trends and valuable tactics that will help them achieve their business objectives.
What brings it all together is insights — consumer insights a planner puts in a brief, platform insights a media buyer uses to allocate budget, or category insights a brand manager uses to shape strategy. In short, high-value insights that fuel and enable the success of our customers.
Thank you Allison!