December 2020 — Carrington Malin

Blogs, writing, published articles, media interviews and other news
December 24, 2020
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High volumes of U.S. election Google search terms during 2020 is no surprise, but the absence of Donald Trump from Google Trends U.S. 2020 Year in Search is one!

There tend to be few surprises in Google’s ‘Year in Search’ trends report, which are routinely dominated by celebrities, entertainment and sports. The Internet has, after all, become an essential utility for many and the first point of enquiry for any information need. However, in U.S. election years, some of that public attention naturally turns to politics.

Each election year, as one would expect, there are more searches for U.S. politicians and presidential candidates and their running mates in particular. ‘Sarah Palin’, the late John McCain’s running mate in his 2008 presidential election campaign was listed as Google’s fastest growing global search term, beating out searches for ‘Beijing 2008’ Summer Olympics. Presidential candidates drive high search volumes during election years and normally feature in Google’s Year in Search top ten lists.

Obama’s election campaigns

In his debut presidential election year Barack Obama dominated U.S. Google searches, with Obama becoming the fastest rising search term and the volume of searches eclipsing most other search terms including McCain, Palin and Democrat vice-presidential candidate Joe Biden.

Famed for the success of his 2008 election social media campaign, Obama was also a big spender with Google spending an estimated $7.5 million with the Internet giant, or about 45 percent of his campaigns total digital ad spending. Obama again rose to high volumes during 2012 presidential campaign Google searches, outranking Mitt Romney in search volumes.

All in all, in terms of online campaigning, Obama was a hard act to follow.

Enter Donald Trump

One year before the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Donald Trump’s search volumes were not only trending, but topping Barack Obama’s famous 2008 presidential campaign! During some week’s Trump’s search volume even topped Obama’s 2008 record by 4-5 times.

Trump versus Obama search (Vox)

Donald Trump appeared top of Google’s 2016 Year in Search tables, ranking as the number one search in the People category, followed by his opponent Hilary Clinton in second place. Neither Trump’s, nor Clinton’s running mates appeared in the top ten list though.

2020 presidential election year

In Google’s 2020 U.S. Year of Search trends report, one name is conspicuous by its absence in the People category: Donald Trump.

As is usually the case during none-election years, Trump and other politicians were largely absent from the top ten rankings in Google’s 2017, 2018 and 2019 Year of Search reports. Although first lady, Melania Trump, ranked high in search volume during 2017, mainly due to publicity around her first official engagements in January of that year.

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However, the top ten list of the most searched for people in 2020, according to Google, doesn’t include Donald Trump. The now president-elect Joe Biden is the clear winner in Google’s list, ranking first in the People category. Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice-presidential candidate ranks fourth, after North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un and U.K. prime minister Boris Johnson.

Even music artist Kanye West, who ran his own independent 2020 United States presidential election campaign, ranked 9th in the year’s top People searches.

Trump not a popular search term in 2020?

I’m not a big Trump fan and I’m not trying to seed yet another conspiracy theory, but doesn’t that seem a bit odd? There’s certainly been no shortage of Trump press coverage this year. Spikes in Google search volumes don’t imply any change in sentiment alone. So, neither Trump’s popularity as a president nor the election results would automatically reduce search volumes. Key word searches are typically prompted by news media or social media coverage, in both of which Trump has seen in ample measure throughout 2020.

Google’s own data on Google Trends doesn’t seem to support either Joe Biden’s top search volume ranking or Donald Trump’s absence. Throughout the past 52 weeks, Trump Google search volumes have exceeded Biden’s every week in, according to one Google Trends search. However, results seem to be inconsistent, in an identical search a few hours earlier Trump searches exceeded Biden’s in 40 out of 52 weeks. In that Google Trends query, there were eight 8 weeks in which Biden searches exceeded Trump’s and four weeks where search volumes were roughly the same for each. Either way, Trump searches overall exceeded Biden’s.

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From the data visible via Google Trends, it seems highly improbable that Biden’s overall 2020 search volume exceeded Trumps. In order for this to happen, this would require that the few weeks prior to election day would have to have driven more search volume for Biden than during most of the year combined for Trump. This is not what the Google Trends charts show (including the chart above).

I’m sure that there’s a logical explanation, isn’t there now Google?

This article was first posted on Linkedin.


December 3, 2020
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You may have worked long and hard on your marketing plan, but how well does it support ongoing communication with your internal stakeholders?

The phrase ‘hearts and minds’ was first used by a French general during the French Indochina-Chinese border rebellion in the 19th century. It’s been used as a military strategy ever since, making emotional or intellectual appeals to the other side, in recognition of the fact that military superiority does not always provide the best or the swiftest victory in armed conflict. And, like many other military concepts, the ‘hearts and minds’ strategy was appropriated by marketing and communications strategists long ago!

However, marketing is by no means alone in borrowing from military strategy. Human resources has proved to be another big user of ‘hearts and minds’ and there are good reasons for this: budget and organisational dynamics. HR never receives the budget that it feels it deserves and so is forced to choose its battles carefully. Meanwhile, communications that put forth company ambitions, messages and cultural achievements simply fall flat if they are widely disputed in hushed tones around the water cooler. If internal stakeholders don’t believe and feel emotionally involved in plans, policies and practices, they’re far less likely to unite behind your cause.

And so it is with the internal communications from any department, marketing included.

Much of marketing’s internal communications routinely focuses on approvals and successes – i.e. the milestones at the beginning and at the end of any marketing campaign. Once the big bang of the final presentation is over and approvals are secured, participation of other stakeholders can fade away rapidly. Marketing plans, strategies and budgets are rightly presented as business cases for the careful consideration of decision makers. Far less effort tends to be invested in making sure that plans are easy to understand, highly useable and appeal to the ‘hearts and minds’ of other departments.

‘People just don’t understand marketing’

A common complaint of marketing heads the world over is that their work is so little understood by the rest of the organisation. There is scarce appreciation for all the work that goes into research, product positioning, creative concepts, or running effective campaigns. As a result, marketing successes are not always met with the thunderous applause that the marketing team believes is due! However, if your full year of internal communications consists of approvals and successes, then surely this is to be expected?

Accelerated by digital transformation and the breaking down of information silos, marketing and communications today not only maps to almost every part of the organisation, but also now shares data with it. All the more reason to have key internal stakeholders not only invested in approval and success milestones, but also emotionally and intellectually invested in the strategy and marketing activities themselves.

So then, am I trying to tell you that everyone in your organisation should be constantly referring to your marketing plan? No, but I am saying that your marketing plan should be a thoughtfully crafted communications tool that informs and supports marketing’s internal narrative throughout the year.

It should be something that helps frame marketing leadership’s communications with senior management, department heads, internal stakeholders, business partners and agencies. For this, your plan should be structured in a way that makes it easy-to-use, a valuable reference, useful to abstract from, and relevant to your wider audience of stakeholders.

Review your plan like it’s ‘external’

Ideally, your marketing plan will be pyramidal in structure – or a pyramid of pyramids – that presents key goals, findings and strategies towards the start and cascades more detail afterward. Ideally too, those top-level goals and strategies will be written in a self-explanatory way that is easily understandable by non-marketing professionals. If you strive to make your goals and strategies memorable and to clearly show relevance to the other functions in the organisation, so much the better. Anything that helps promote greater understanding of your goals, challenges and strategies has got to be a good thing, right?

A useful way to review your marketing plan is to imagine that you’ve written it for an external audience. Marketing content for external audiences normally goes through a very different process to internal communications. There tends to be a great deal of scrutiny of key messages and what perceptions will be formed by customers, partners, the media and other key audiences. The form, style, colour and simplicity of external communications are brainstormed, ideated, iterated, tested and optimised. In contrast, internal communications are often deemed as good enough if they are honest, free of typos and don’t over-commit!

Your annual marketing plan is a core document for marketing planning, budgeting and approvals. However, it’s a valuable communications exercise, helping to frame marketing’s internal messaging for the year. The more effectively your plan communicates your goals, plans and strategies, the more key points both marketing and non-marketing stakeholders are going to understand, retain and refer to later. Beyond the simple benefit of ensuring that everyone’s reading from the same manual, you may find that focusing a little more on ‘hearts and minds’ could even turn your internal critics into advocates. And wouldn’t that be something?

This article was first posted on Linkedin.

Also read: Is your marketing plan presentation the best it can be?