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Marketing Advice & Reflections

Are Your Customers Stupid?

Posted by Steve Cameron
Steve Cameron
Steve Cameron is the Director Owner of Advent Communication. With more than 25 years experience he has a deep...
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on Thursday, 25 July 2013 in Google

Here is a quick summary of a recent U.S. Court of Appeals judgement on the use of using competitor's trademarks as Google Adwords keywords:

The purchase of a competitor's trademark as a trigger for advertising through Google's AdWords program was unlikely to create confusion on the part of consumers and thus did not give rise to a claim of trademark infringement through initial interest confusion, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled July 16 (1-800 Contacts, Inc. v. Inc., 10th Cir., No. 11-4114, 7/16/13). (Source:

Simply put - it means that it's OK to use your competitor's trademark as a keyword to trigger your ads. As per Google policy, you still cannot user a competitor's trademark in your ad copy - and that makes perfect sense - but for some time there has been a heated debate as to the legality of trademarks as keywords.

So, let's ask the question again : Are Your Customers Stupid?

The answer is No - they're not.... so let's think about the implications of being able to use a competitor's trademark as a keyword.

Firstly, let's consider what it means for the customer. They are searching for Acme Inc. and your "Acme Inc" keyword triggers your ad. They clearly know Acme Inc. and they clearly believe, rightly or wrongly, that Acme Inc. can satisfy their current need.

And, that's probably true. But you too can satisfy that need. And you may be able to do that faster, or more cheaply, or simply better than Acme Inc. The customer now has a choice that they didn't have a moment ago. They have the opportunity to make a judgement about - or at least investigate the option of - using you instead of Acme Inc.

Now let's consider what it means for you. You have managed to place your ad in front of someone who is clearly looking for the goods or services you offer. That has to be a good move for you.

Finally, let's look at what this means for Acme Inc. - these are probably the least happy people in this cozy little menage a trois.

They had someone who was looking for them - and along the way, got sidelined and distracted by others. Others who promised better service, at a lower cost and much more.

So - should Acme Inc. hate you? Again the answer is No.... although they might. And, as the above court judgement suggests, they might even take you to court! But they shouldn't because what this does is opens up the market and gives them an opportunity to keep their own service at its very best.

Would it be easier for them if you weren't around? Of course.

Would they prefer it if you didn't use their trademark as a keyword. Of course.

But this practice is no different from putting your billboard close to your competitor's premises. Or running comparative advertising in print or on TV.

But perhaps most importantly it empowers the customer. And our customers are not stupid. Collectively they are even smarter than the individuals in the group.

Our customers know what they were searching for. And if they used a trademark in their search then they know specifically what they were searching for. They are not being distracted by flashing lights, bells and whistles - if they are distracted at all it is because a competitor has offered an alternative. It is up to us to make sure that the alternative cannot match our offering.

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