Richard Shear is a professor at New York’s School of Visual Arts and teaches in the Masters of Branding program. He is Chief Creative Officer at Invok Brands where he uses his consumer search pattern framework to help clients get an edge. Invok Brands has conceived a new way to evaluate branding and package design that considers how consumers locate, assess, and select categories of products. These four consumer search patterns are universal and based on the history of consumer behavior – even before retail. This is the fourth in the series of articles that will help you find the technique that applies to your brand and use it.
Can You Help Me: The Influenced Search
You are traveling on horseback across an unfamiliar prairie when you meet an old friend. She has deep experience and local knowledge, and you’re looking for a safe place to camp with your family, so you ask if she can help you. You come upon the perfect campsite following her directions, well protected from the wind and sun.
This story could have taken place one thousand years ago or just yesterday, and it’s an analogy for a consumer search pattern we call influenced search. What are consumer search patterns? They are Invok Brands’ way of looking at how consumers locate, assess, and select categories of products.
Here’s a quick review of the first three search patterns before jumping into the next one, influenced search. And, if you believe, as I do, that humanity is defined by shared communities and cultures with shared values, you’ll see that influenced search is perhaps both the oldest and the newest of the four and the most genuinely human.
- Familiar search, the ‘let’s go back’ impulse.
- Associated search, an experience of ‘that reminds me.’
- Free search, a ‘let’s explore’ frame of mind.
- Influenced search, asking, can you help me?
The Foundation of Influenced Search Is Trust.
The foundation of this search is trust — seeking and relying on recommendations to influence your decision. Asking for a friend’s advice is now manifested by a mainstay of social media and influencer culture, ranging from individuals to organizations. On social, information, reviews, and recommendations can direct virtually every brand decision that a consumer makes. Influencers, and the parties behind them, are bent on impacting and often profiting from your choices. The institutionalization of influence has become a double-edged sword that we benefit from and has made us the target of a culture driven by information access.
Making Influence Search Work In The Age of Influence
Marketers have several opportunities in a world where media activities and influences increasingly impact consumers’ decisions. We’ll explore them here using our client RoC as an example because of its expertise in influenced search.
Marketing and Brand Challenges From Influenced Search
First, with so many more communications platforms, consumer information can be directed to a wide range of audiences and picked up and shared among media. Our client RoC shares that it has been partnering with dermatologists since 1957, reaching those seeking expert information and experts seeking to recommend products.
Second, consumers appear to have an infinite number of choices, and they will search for the product that meets their needs best, strengthening the requirement for informed advice. RoC’s consumer love is enormous; it boasts at least 100,000 five-star reviews online.
Finally, consumers and media recommend RoC products so frequently and in such volume that RoC’s media coverage generates more media coverage. For example, in addition to TV spots on GMA and The Today Show recommending it, in 2021, RoC had 12 billion-plus total media impressions and earned more than 30 beauty awards. Roc has got consumer love, influencer love, and media love.
Influenced search will play a strategically important role in brand communication as the world becomes increasingly dominated by brand and media interaction. Recommendations are worth a thousand ads when consumers are searching by influence.