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Book review: Winning the Zero Moment of Truth

It's that moment when you use technology to make decisions about buying

Search engine, photo stasher, email service and now – with the advent of Google+ – even a social network, Google has become all things to all people. So it’s no surprise it’s decided it has two new hats to wear: those of both author and marketing expert.

ZMOTGoogle’s new e-book Winning the Zero Moment of Truth is admittedly a far cry from a 300-page printed paperback. At 75 pages, it’s a pamphlet at best. But it’s a sign that more, bigger, projects are at play at the giant’s headquarters. Fee, fi, fo, fum.

So what’s the ‘zero moment of truth’? Google calls it the ZMOT (pronounced ‘ZEE-mot’, or ‘ZED-mot’ if you’re Straaaalian, they say): that moment when you use technology to make decisions about a purchase.

It’s the “mom in the minivan” getting info on the best decongestants while waiting to pick the kids up from school. It’s the office manager at her desk looking for ink cartridges. It’s also the “young woman in her condo”, who’s “cruising” the web for “juicy details” about a guy before her blind date.

Marketing aside, it paints an uneasy picture of P-cooking, ink-loving stalker ladies looking to pick one off from the herd late at night.

But I digress.

Naturally, statistics abound in the book about pre-purchase online research, and that’s a given. X percent of spider haters read reviews of fly spray online before making their deathly decision towards brand of choice; X percent of people who review accommodation options in Nightcaps ultimately choose not to holiday there, and so on. Even Google admits the numbers are no longer a surprise.

Purchasing statisticsWhat might also not surprise you is that TV ads, direct mail and newspaper ads come out at the top of the stimulus chart. Although online is the future, above-the-line advertising is still finding it hard to die the grisly death to which it has long been condemned.

What might actually surprise you is that Google is in favour of negative comments about a product or service. It adds authenticity, apparently. (Tell that to Stalker Girl when she finds details online about her “new guy” that are a little too, erm, “juicy”.)

And don’t discount the idea that users won’t search online for the likes of toothpaste or paper clips – nothing is that insignificant. In the first year after 3M started taking online comments about Scotch Tape, the company got more than 3,000 love-your-work missives about the product. (A third of them were submitted by Stalker Girl while she was twiddling her thumbs, waiting for her date to arrive.)

Of course, the ‘book’ is really just a giant advertisement for Google wrapped up in publishing paraphernalia. And although the book is packed with all-star marketing names – Saatchi & Saatchi X unit worldwide chief executive Dina Howell, among others – it won’t tell the average savvy marketer anything they don’t already know. Except perhaps that single guys should take great care with their online presence. 

Winning the Zero Moment of Truth
By Jim Lecinski, Google MD for United States sales and service (Google and Vook, 2011)
Download it at www.zeromomentoftruth.com. The enhanced version includes video clips embedded in the text.