By Patricia B. Mirasol, Reporter 

“The messy middle,” according to Google, is the space consumers navigate between triggers and purchases. A brand’s marketing success, per the search engine, depends on how well it learns how to navigate this “labyrinth of searches, ads, links, and clicks.”

When people are exposed to a purchase trigger — such as a billboard or a conversation with a friend — they begin the process of using a range of online sources to review their options, said Sapna Chadha, vice president for marketing for Google’s India, Southeast Asia, and South Asia markets.  

“At its core, the messy middle is fueled by emotional tensions that are looking to be resolved and is unique to every single person,” she said.  

Ms. Chadha herself switched from a known cosmetics brand to a number of new brands after she Googled professional looks for women, and ended up watching a video that discussed contouring, skin tone, and red lipsticks. 

“It’s also a really important thing to remember that there is rarely a right or wrong answer in these instances,” she said at a March 15 event by Google. “What’s right is different for every person.” 

According to Byron Sharp, a professor of marketing at marketing research center Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, people are very loyal. 

“Of the millions of brands we could buy, we keep going back to a few,” he said. “We’re not passionately in love with those brands, but we love being loyal because it makes our lives easy.” 

For people to be loyal to a brand, however, marketers need to make it available — in both the physical and mental sense. 

A brand’s mental availability refers to the probability that a buyer will notice, recognize, and/or think of a brand in buying situations. Physical availability, on the other hand, is the scope of a brand’s distribution, and how easy it is for consumers to purchase its products. 

“You think that sampling is effective, that if you give consumers a free product — and if it’s a good product — they should adopt it into their repertoire. But so often it doesn’t, because [sampling] doesn’t lay down the mental structures [for future purchases],” said Mr. Sharp. “Advertising needs to overlap with that physical availability both before and after purchase.”  

Search advertising helps by giving products digital availability, he said. It provides an opportunity for marketers for when consumers are in a buying mood, and adds touch points to a marketing campaign. 

Google holds 91.9% of the search engine market as of this January and was visited 82.6 billion times in February, according to dropshipping app Oberlo. 

“We’re in a world where we’re inundated with information,” said author and journalist Malcolm Gladwell, known for his bestsellers on pop psychology and behavioral economics. “We’re dealing with mysteries. You have a big mound of data in front of you. Now your job is to sift through that data, make sense of it, throw out what isn’t important, and zero in on what is. In the digital age, the problems we are faced with are — overwhelmingly — mysteries.”