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In 2020, world events meant marketers were forced to throw the old rule book out the window. Metrics that once made sense were rendered obsolete and well-understood consumer habits shifted overnight.

So we weren’t surprised when we dug into our data to find out what marketers had been reading on Think with Google this past year: tips for rethinking in-person events, clues as to what people were searching for online, and inspiration from inclusive campaigns. Here’s what was top of mind for marketers in 2020.

1. 5 principles guiding Google’s media teams during the pandemic

As countries around the world went into lockdown earlier this year, marketers were left wondering how to respond. Should you pause all campaigns? Do you need to rethink your measurement strategy? Should you jump on the coronavirus ad bandwagon?

“There is no playbook for times like these, but what I’ve found is that crisis can provide clarity,” explains Joshua Spanier, Google’s global marketing VP for media. “I want to share five principles that I hope are helpful to other brands undoubtedly navigating the same uncharted territory.” One guideline: Constantly reassess your messaging.

Read the full piece.

2. How people decide what to buy lies in the ‘messy middle’ of the purchase journey

People don’t make decisions in a neat, linear fashion. A lot happens between the moment they realize they have a need or a desire for something and the moment they make a purchase.

We call that the messy middle, “a complex space between triggers and purchase, where customers are won and lost,” explain Alistair Rennie and Jonny Protheroe, who work for Google’s consumer insights team and carried out research on how consumers behave in this messy middle. “It’s more important than ever for brands to learn how to make sense of it.”

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3. It’s time to unbias your business. Here’s how

The majority of consumers — 67% — say they want brands to set an example when it comes to tackling racial injustice. But where to start?

We carried out research on what leading brands like Etsy, Adidas, and Sephora are doing to create more inclusive, diverse organizations. And it all starts with being transparent.

Read the full piece.

4. How to stay on top of market trends in a dynamic environment

One minute people are searching for “breweries near me,” and the next, they’re trying to figure out how to get craft cocktails delivered to their homes. Consumer trends have always changed at breakneck speed, but in a dynamic environment like the one we’re living through, it can feel impossible to keep up.

“To keep up with shifting behaviors, consider Google Trends,” advises Simon Rogers, a data editor at the Google News Lab. He shares 10 tips for marketers looking to stay one step ahead of the next big trend.

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5. What does it take to create an inclusive campaign?

What makes an advertising campaign inclusive? It’s about more than representation. After all, 66% of African Americans say they feel their ethnic identity is often portrayed stereotypically.

To find out how brands can more authentically reflect the consumers they want to speak to, we looked at three powerful campaigns from P&G, Fenty Beauty, and Google.

Read the full piece.

6. Crisis marketing: How brands are addressing the coronavirus

How did some of the most inspiring brands respond to unprecedented world events? We looked at campaigns from the likes of Cottonelle, McDonald’s, Ikea, and Ford and discovered three common approaches. These brands addressed customer concerns, offered solutions, and found new ways to help people stay connected.

Read the full piece.

7. 3 things we’re considering as we rethink live events

How long will it be before anyone feels comfortable attending a concert? Or going to the theater? Or networking at a big work event? Nikki Garvey doesn’t know the answer to these questions. But as the head of ads and YouTube events and experiences at Google, she does know a thing or two about reimagining physical events for a socially distanced world.

“‘Digital events’ seems like an easy answer as a go-to remedy for our current shared reality, but that doesn’t always mean it’s the right answer,” she said, before explaining three things her team considers when organizing marketing events in this new world.

Read the full piece.

8. Do’s and don’ts for marketing measurement during a pandemic

How do you measure your marketing efforts in a time of upheaval? That’s a question Avinash Kaushik, Google Marketing’s head of strategic analytics, has been asking himself a lot this past year. “Clearly, you can’t — and shouldn’t — stop all measurement,” he writes. But with so much uncertainty, many of the metrics that used to matter won’t anymore.

That’s why Kaushik and his team identified five marketing measurement strategies on which it made sense to hit the pause button and five others to not only continue tracking but to refine. “This could be the perfect time to invest in planning and upgrading your analytics strategies for 2021 and beyond.”

Read the full piece.

9. How brands can help during the coronavirus pandemic

When stay-at-home orders were put in place everywhere from Milan to New York, social scientists warned of an epidemic of loneliness. In fact, the opposite happened, and people found new ways to stay connected.

“Even as people physically distance themselves, they’re discovering new connections and nurturing relationships, whether virtually or in their own household,” wrote Google’s Tara Walpert-Levy. “In the U.S., views of videos containing ‘study with me’ in the title are 54% higher compared to the same period last year.”

Read the full piece.

10. The CMO’s changing mandate

For years, the influence of the CMO role has been in decline. But as more brands fast-track digital transformation in response to the extraordinary challenges of 2020, these senior leaders have an opportunity to rise to the occasion by reinventing themselves and, in the process, growing their businesses.

We spoke with 20 senior marketing leaders and interviewed 30 Fortune 1000 board members to understand how the role of CMO needs to change.

Read the full piece.