Brand Attitudes and Search Engine Queries

Jeffrey P. Dotson
Elea McDonnell Feit
Yi-Hsin Yeh
Journal of Interactive Marketing, 37(2017), pp. 105-116 (to appear)


Search engines record the queries that users submit, including a large number of queries that include brand names. This data holds promise for assessing brand health. However, before adopting brand search volume as a brand metric, marketers should understand how brand search relates to traditional survey-based measures of brand attitudes, which have been shown to be predictive of sales. We investigate the relationship between brand attitudes and search engine queries using a unique micro-level data set collected from a panel of Google users who agreed to allow us to track their individual brand search behavior over eight weeks and link this search history to their responses to a brand attitude survey. Focusing on the smartphone and automotive markets, we find that users who are actively shopping in a category are more likely to search for any brand. Further, as users move from being aware of a brand to intending to purchase a brand, they are increasingly more likely to search for that brand, with the greatest gains as customers go from recognition to familiarity and from familiarity to consideration. Additionally, users that own and use a particular automotive or smartphone brand are much more likely to search for that brand, even when they are not in market suggesting that a substantial volume of brand search in these categories is not related to shopping or product search. We discuss the implications of these findings for assessing brand health from search data.