"Why is Marmite so expensive?," I found myself wondering
Brands can learn a lot form social media about Johnny Public sees them. And I have no doubt that most of them have someone dedicated to trawling Twitter, Facebook and Google Analytics for a steer on their public profile. But there's another fascinating and accessible source if information on your brand - or anyone else's for that matter.
It's Google's Autocomplete functionality that suggests searches based on what you're typing into the search field. It's very simple. If it looks like you're going to type 'why is the sky blue' Google will start suggesting possibilities based on what it looks like you're going to write - and other people's popular searches, perhaps with an added dash of my search history.
For instance, if I type in 'why is the sky blue' on Google I get the following suggestions - note how it adapts to each new letter.
There's an algorithm powering these results that's probably different for every user in every location - but fundamentally it's populated by what people are usually searching for when they type those first few letter. Google seems to have a little fun, however, there's always at least one weird result in there when you start typing. I can't begin to fathom 'why is the rum gone', for example.
Things can also get weird at early stages of other searches. Typing in the words 'why is my' always seems to result in some sort of variation of a query asking why shit or piss is a certain colour. Presumably someone types this stuff into a Google search bar somewhere. Who knew that so many people were so concerned about the colour of their bodily waste? Maybe there's a future spot for Andrex to investigate.
Anyway, I've long mulled the possibilities this insight into searches lends. As I've said elsewhere, people don't lie to search engines in ways they do lie to themselves or other people - so it's the closest to reading other people's minds you'll ever get. But it's also valuable in ascertaining what people think of other people, places, things - and brands.
Mrs AdTurds came back from her daily toil with news of a recent purchase - one of those massive jars of Marmite. She's a massive fan of Marmite - as am I - I even bought her a personalised jar for Christmas - but I found myself pondering why Marmite is so expensive. It is, after all, essentially the stuff that's scraped out of fermentation vessels - a salty byproduct of making beer. Is appears I'm not alone in wondering this, given Google's automatic suggestions.
It might have some uses if you're one of those people who works in brand perception. Fundamentally though there's some fun to be had with stuff like this, as an insight into what makes people tick. I've discerned, for example, that some people believe Marmite will go well with prawns, chicken or even porridge, though 'marmite with ulcers' is a worrying one.
Apparently Nigella Lawson suggests you make a dish called Spaghetti with Marmite - and Marmite Butter. Heston has his Marmite Consomme; Jamie has Marmite Popcorn; the Hairy Bikers cheese and marmite tarts. Oh, all of them are easily findable on the web if you know what you're looking for, but simply by typing 'Marmite' and whatever variation of keywords you're interested in can unearth some gems. My suggestion? Use with some leftover pastry and cheese to make some supercharged cheese straws.
Needless to say lots of people are confused by Marmite, many hate it and even more love it. And apparently you can buy knickers with Marmite on them - imagine wrestling the trousers off a beau to find them staring at you.
Anyway, here's some Marmite adverts from times gone by. I've always been a mark for Marmite but even if I weren't you've got to hand it to a company that acknowledges and even plays up the fact that a lot of people loathe it. Bit like George Osborne really.