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A Quest For Discovery

It’s been said that time on the Internet goes by at the speed of light. Technology, business & trends seem to evolve at a faster pace in virtual reality than in any other form of business. As such, it is sometimes hard to keep pace with the changes much less understand what they all mean now or at some point down the road. This is especially true for marketers looking for a reliable source of traffic; low competition, high conversions and low cost per click expense.

The Value of The Internet

Several years ago, back before everyone had a broadband connection to the Internet, my company provided marketing consulting and agency services for a substantial, regional Internet Service Provider (ISP). At the time, the rate of new subscribers was leveling off as early adopters had already become clients and the rest of the marketplace was still evaluating the need for connectivity beyond commercial e-mail. Based on market research and good ‘ol fashioned gut instinct, I believed that many consumers didn’t understand the value of the Internet in their personal lives because they didn’t know what websites, outside of pornography, were available. My recommendation to my client was a two-fold approach. We initiated a strong media campaign entitled “What Do You Want To Do Today?” showing a series of normal, everyday activities and how the Internet could play an integral role to enhance the experience. Our second initiative was to partner with a national publication available at the time, Web Guide Magazine, to provide cross-promotional opportunities and free subscriptions to new subscribers. Our intent was simple: show new users the multitude of websites available – the new, the best and the ugly. Luckily, both marketing platforms delivered strong results. Once people understood the value, they realized the need all on their own. Today, Internet users are, in large part, far more sophisticated and aware of their options and the search engine and social media tools available. Yet, there is still an argument that can be made that with all of the tools being used countless times per day and vast amounts of social sharing going on, users still seem to stick to the websites with which they are already accustomed.

If You Don’t Know, You Can’t Search

Recently, businessinsider.com ran an article, The 15 Most Massively Popular Websites You’ve Never Heard Of by Ellis Hamburger. Within the piece, Mr. Hamburger contrasts the average monthly traffic of each of the sites listed with better-known web destinations. The conclusion: It’s amazing how many of these sites get larger amounts of traffic than larger web brands. However, as he articulated within the title, despite the sites large following, vast amounts of people don’t know the sites exist? How can this be? Doesn’t Google or Bing know they exist? Of course they do. The reason is very simple, how can you search for a product or service you don’t know exists? Online or offline, targeted marketing is a concept that makes marketing budgets more realistic, hopefully more productive and supposedly, the lives of consumers so much better. Facebook is known for delivering targeted ads and, along with Twitter, makes suggestions on people you may know or companies that you may want to follow based on…your previous choices and relationships. After all, do you really want to receive friend requests from people that simply thought your profile picture was cool; Or marketing messages for adult undergarments when you see yourself as a healthy, vibrant thirty-something?

Are we, as consumers, being shortchanged the opportunity to expand our horizons? As marketers, are we following a crowded path to reach a saturated demographic at the expense of a new, potentially untapped audience simply because we don’t know of a predisposition to your type of product or service?

Money On The Table

So the Internet is a gigantic, virtual location with a lot of unknown destinations. Who cares, right? What does this have to do with online or pay-per-click marketing? In my opinion, it’s an opportunity. If you visit a super center store on your way home from work simply to get a gallon of milk, you will have to walk all the way to the back of the store…past countless other products along the way to accomplish your singular goal. Why? Because the brilliant marketers behind the super centers know, and have vast amounts of purchase history data to support, that by forcing you to walk past a large amount of unrelated products to reach the daily staples of milk, eggs, etc. you will undoubtedly pick up a few more items along the way. By comparison, under the search engine business model, someone would meet you at the door, ask you what you wanted and get it in your hands in seconds so that you could be on your way. Of course, ads would be delivered during your brief visit that somehow relate to milk, dinner or something within that defined genre. But what about the up sell or ad displays of all of the other products that are being sold offline and could be sold online? Wouldn’t it stand to reason that money is being left on the table? Not to mention, that Internet users are not being given the opportunity to know all that the web can provide.

Shameless Plug or Marketing Insight?

Sure, anyone can “surf” around the net to find new and interesting websites the same way that you can drive to another part of town to explore local boutiques or restaurants on a Sunday afternoon. But in reality, how often do people really do that? With countless new products, services and websites being made available online everyday, how do these attract an audience?

With these thoughts in mind, I set out to converge a long held idea of crowd sourced image mosaics and a platform to allow “discovery” of products, services and websites from around the world. The end result was millionpixelmosaic.com.


In contrast to the basic idea of “pixel buys” of years gone by, this Web 2.0 platform is a genuine approach to global, crowd sourced, “Internet art” that provides strong social networking and SEO integration. The visual evolution of the mosaics as users continue to upload images provides an incentive for visitors to bookmark the site and visit often.  As a visitor explores each mosaic, their mouse uncovers each, individual image, caption and URL within a hover box that purposefully appears. Click on the thumbnail image and it enlarges nearly full screen for much greater detail. Follow the attached link and you are off to discover a website that you may otherwise never have had the opportunity to know. An additional viral mechanism has been integrated in the form of voting allowing each site visitor the opportunity to help determine and share which image, from those uploaded, will become the two “master images” of the mosaic. Imagine, the discovery of a product or website by a potentially new, worldwide audience, that may lead to further sharing and viral interest and no targeted marketing was involved.  What a concept.

The bottom line, targeted, behavioral marketing is a powerful marketing tool and is here to stay as any marketing director can attest. But tried and true methodologies of offline marketing should be strongly considered within online marketing too. This means that your marketing plan, should involve a media mix or perhaps an audience mix as well. Granted, it can be argued that not utilizing targeting or behavioral marketing is an affront to one of the core benefits of online marketing, a waste of money and a shot in the dark. I am simply suggesting that the pursuit of a specific, well defined audience with one approach may leave you to fight within a crowded space, with increased costs and without the potential of cultivating a new audience or a “diamond in the rough”. A key to any successful business is knowing your audience….your customer. But in my experience, most businesses think way to narrowly in this regard, assume that their customer looks and thinks just like them and “preach to the choir”. Experiment a little and broaden your audience horizon. You may very well be glad that you did.

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