10 timeless articles that mark 10 years of Think with Google – Think with Google

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A lot has happened in the world of digital marketing in the decade since Think with Google first launched. Take just one example: mobile marketing. In 2011, mobile users spent 127 minutes per day in apps. Today, in 13 countries, people spend more than four hours per day using apps. These types of changes have had enormous implications for the marketing industry.
Despite all these and many other changes, some things remain relevant even a decade later. To mark our 10-year milestone, we had a look through our archive to find a selection of pieces that feel as fresh today as when they were written.
It was 1994 when the first online ad graced our computer screens. But almost two decades later, marketers still hadn’t figured out the secret to making a classic internet commercial.
That’s why back in 2012, Google enlisted four industry veterans — people behind some of the most memorable TV ads — to partner with a team of technical whizz-kids and reimagine their iconic campaigns for the internet era. The goal? “Shift the way the industry approaches digital advertising (and) come up with work that people will love, remember and share 50 years from now.”
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One of the first things we learn as marketers is the importance of the funnel — a linear journey that sees customers move from awareness to consideration to purchase. But in 2018, after analysing thousands of users’ clickstream data from a third-party opt-in panel, Google researchers reached a surprising conclusion: the traditional marketing funnel was no more.
“We found that no two journeys are exactly alike, and in fact, most journeys don’t resemble a funnel at all,” Google’s Allan Thygesen wrote. “They look like pyramids, diamonds, hourglasses, and more.”
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What’s the first thing you do when you’re looking for a new recipe? Or if you need to locate your closest ATM? Or when you want to find a local bar with outdoor seating? You do a Google Search.
That same behaviour we see today was already well established back in 2013, when there were more than a billion Google searches each day. And just like now, it offered marketers new ways of reaching people. “It’s a vast virtual library of anonymised behavior data that can significantly augment the current methods brands use to learn about their consumers.”
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“We’ve all sat through meetings, struggling to stay awake during presentations filled with cheesy stock images, confusing bar graphs, and pie chart after pie chart,” Google's Cole Nussbaumer wrote in 2012. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
“Even the driest content can come to life – if it’s presented creatively,” says Nussbaumer, who went on to write a book on the topic. Her five tips for telling compelling stories with data are as relevant today as they were a decade ago.
Read the full piece.

At a time where customers have come to expect hyper-personalised and relevant experiences, machine learning has become an important tool for marketers.
But while ML allows brands to be more helpful to customers, Google research in 2018 revealed that when the training data is faulty, incomplete, or homogenous, it can lead to ML bias. “ML bias can damage brand perception and make years of thoughtful, inclusive messaging seem disingenuous or even manipulative.” A few important steps can help brands mitigate these risks and build fairness into their DNA.
Read the full piece.
In 2009, Jonathan Rosenberg, then Google's SVP of product management, made a prediction: companies that embraced a philosophy of openness – open technology and open information – would succeed at the expense of those that didn’t.
Writing on Think with Google three years later, he explained that not only was his prediction accurate, but that it materialised far faster and had broader repercussions than he ever imagined. “I'd failed to anticipate the extent to which it would rewrite the rules across the private and public sectors.”
Read the full piece.
For years, marketers used demographics as a proxy for people who might be interested in their products. But as Google’s then-VP of marketing Lisa Gevelber argued in a 2015 piece that remains relevant today, demographics rarely tell the whole story.
Consider baby products. According to Google research, at the time, 40% of baby product purchasers lived in households without children. “Demographics don't help us understand what we really need to know – consumer intent,” Gevelber wrote. “Brands that understand and respond to intent are better positioned to be there and be useful for all of their potential customers, not just those that fit an age and gender profile.”
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When we’re on the go and have to quickly make a purchase decision, we tend to focus on a few key criteria or product attributes. It’s something called the “narrowing effect,” and it could provide important lessons for mobile marketers.
“The fact that we can – and often do – use mobile devices while on-the-go is a huge differentiator between our online behavior on a laptop versus on a mobile device,” social scientist Dan Ariely wrote for Think with Google in 2016. “Because of this, some of the well-studied social science phenomena related to time pressure are particularly applicable in helping to understand mobile decision-making.”
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The advertising industry has a diversity problem. In the UK, for example, 34% of Black people say they feel inaccurately portrayed in advertising. In East Asia, TV ads still too often rely on negative gender stereotypes.
In 2017, Oona King, former director of diverse marketing at YouTube, put forward a powerful argument for tackling this problem. “The demographic shift of the ad audience has far outpaced the demographic shift of the ad industry,” she wrote. “As the minority becomes the majority, they are eager to see ads that openly address diversity and race-related issues.”
Read the full piece.
All too often, businesses take a myopic approach to their clients: What are they looking to buy right now? It’s no surprise that marketing strategies often follow suit, valuing customers only over the short term.
For Peter Fader, a Wharton professor of marketing, that’s a mistake. “When it comes to driving profitable growth in the long term, customer lifetime value is a metric that can no longer be ignored,” he and Neil Hoyne of Google wrote in a 2021 piece that shares five tips for using the important metric.
Read the full piece.
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