What can the solar eclipse teach us about an underused marketing tool?

There are a thousand different ways to make the solar eclipse seem relevant to marketing. There are a thousand think-pieces focusing on how brands are hopping on the eclipse bandwagon, or how the memorable nature of an event like this is an excellent retail opportunity, or how the inherent virality of an event like this can boost guerilla marketing efforts. Those are all well and good, but the eclipse is an excellent opportunity to look at an extremely valuable yet underutilized marketing tool: Google Trends

Trends is a free tool put out by Google that tells you how popular a search term or topic is relative to everything else being searched. Google Trends has a really interesting overview on the solar eclipse, showing the most common searches related to the eclipse, the interest in solar eclipse glasses, and even the interest in solar versus lunar eclipses in the United States over the last five years.

It’s neat stuff, but what does it have to do with marketing? Google Trends is useful to marketers because it is the easiest and cheapest way to get an overview of what the general public has any level of interest in. Think of it this way, following the trends on a site like Twitter tells you what people care enough to talk about online, but does it tell you much about what they’re passively interested in? On the other hand, Google Trends tells you the little things they had any sort of interest in and is very useful for back of the napkin calculations.

Say you are looking for a spokesperson and want to compare two actresses from a very popular show like Game of Thrones. It might seem obvious that Diana Riggs (Olenna Tyrell) is a better choice than Indira Varma (Ellaria Sand), but Google Trends goes further than just guesswork. You can compare exactly how many people searched for each of them in the time frame when they were both on the show.

That’s a pretty simple example, but it can be taken further, such as seeing how often a brand was searched for before, during, and after they ran a TV advertising campaign. It is not a perfect research tool, but it is extremely helpful for some preliminary calculations. Let’s take it a step further and show how it can be used in a more in-depth way.

Put yourself in the shoes of a small airport, let’s say Sarasota Bradenton International Airport in Florida. You know you are losing passengers to other larger airports nearby and you’re going to run an advertising campaign to try and fight back. You could commission an expensive study to track how well the campaign is going, or you can jury rig your own market research together using Google Trends. You already have access to sales volume and whatnot, but Trends gives you something else, how often people in your area are searching for particular airports regardless of where they fly out from. Limit your search to the metropolitan regions relevant to you and see how often each nearby airport is searched.

Analyze every 30 day period from when you start your advertising campaign and all of a sudden, you have a free and effective alternative to expensive market research. Is it perfect? No. It would be foolish to rely on this as your only source of research, but it is extremely useful for helping you close the gaps in your knowledge and quickly analyze your marketing efforts. Trends is even more useful when used in conjunction with other tools like Google Correlate and Google AdWords, but it is still a very helpful standalone tool that doesn’t get enough appreciation.