Ep 41: Vista rebrand elegance, Opportunities for new search engines, Google expands SMB propaganda campaign

Vista deftly rebranded & their success shows strength of SMB market, Can new search engines like You make a go of it in the face of Google? Google has expanded their SMB propaganda campaign into Adwords to gain SMB support against anti-trust regulation

Ep 41: Vista rebrand elegance, Opportunities for new search engines, Google expands SMB propaganda campaign
Photo by Nick Adams / Unsplash

Part 1 Video Starts 0:13 - Vista rebrand shows deft touch & confirms strength of SMB market

Part 2 Video- Starts 7:45 - What opportunities are there for new search engines like You.com?

Part 3 Video- Starts 14:06 - Google expands the propaganda campaign to enlist SMB in its battle against anti-trust regulation

Reference Articles:

  1. Vistaprint Rebrands as Vista, Announces Acquisition of Depositphotos
  2. Will you use You.com?
  3. Google’s New Business Profile: When Search Becomes a Political Tool

Transcript: EP 41

Greg: All right. Welcome back everybody to the near memo. And I'm Greg Sterling. I'm here with David Mim and Mike Blumenthal was always, and we're talking about the week's news and search social and commerce, and anything else that comes into our mind spontaneously in the moment. I have, a relatively new hair haircut, although my hair does not look as good as it can, but, you know, I'm returning to the world of normal, appearance, gradually.

All right with that.

David: Congratulations.

Greg: Thanks. You always look pretty, pretty tailored and, and the, in, in good shape, David. So,

David: well, you're too kind. You're too kind of,

Greg: Anyway, so let's kick it off with the, with the news about the Vista print.

David: Exactly. So, Greg, I, is it really an interesting highlight, on your part in our newsletter earlier this week that this VistaPrint is rebranding as Vista.

I think that it probably pretty easy to understand why they're rebranding to remove the word print from their name, given the world going digital. but it's it a, it struck me as a, in my mind, a very successful rebrand in terms of it's visually very sharp. And the, the website is, is really clean and modern and everything else that things that I wouldn't have associated with Vista print, prior to the.

B, I think executionally, it's interesting that they're not trying to do everything at once, which is, you know, there's, there's pluses and minuses, but I think it's the smart, it's more of the sort of MVP rebrand mindset, as opposed to the, you know, try to try to encompass everything. So they still are maintaining, independent brands and independent websites for their portfolio companies that I assume over time will sort of get folded into the Vista doc.

experience, but that was just an interesting thing to me, that the, they were able to sort of compartmentalize the stages of their rebrand and I thought they did a pretty nice job with it. and then it also ties in with, Their fellow NBA, Jersey sponsors Squarespace. So Vista print, are now Vista sponsors.

The Celtics Squarespace sponsors the Knicks, which I think is just an interesting dynamic on a, at face value and Squarespace announced on their earnings call today, which you also highlighted that their total addressable market is 800 million, SMBs and solo-preneurs, which gets back to the, the Tam discussion.

We had a few episodes ago on the nearby. And it strikes me that Vista and Squarespace are probably actually competing for, a similar set of that 800 million. my first memory of Vista print is all of their promotions around, you know, get 50 free business cards, which you know, who needs, who needs 50 free business cards.

It's the person who's just started a business,

Mike: or Mike Blumenthal who forgets to give them away the perfect number. I have some GatherUp cards

David: if you'd like. collectors items, it was, might be worth something someday. but it just strikes me there. They're both competing for a similar market and, you know, potentially this rebrand, may signal a different product, focus on Vista's part.

But I think that they, it's an, it's a nice way to evolve their brand that still addresses kind of that same market. And I think we're now, like, it's very interesting to me to see, you know, the money and interest now. That's going after the very low end of the SMB space, which for as long as Mike and I have been involved in digital marketing, local search has been just completely ignored.

and it seems like now there's there's, there are real venture capital bets being made, on the very small business and getting people, getting a customer very early. That will maintain a relationship with you as they grow. So I thought it was an interesting rebrand, a well-executed rebrand and speaks to the value of that, of that very low end SMB.


Greg: interesting. One

Mike: has to ask where 800 million comes from.

Greg: Well, it's it's it's somebody's number. Somebody sat in a room and came up with that number. And undoubtedly it's it's too big, but directionally, it suggests that the market for these companies is much larger than what historically everybody has been thinking, you know, this is a global number, but, but it's, it's, it's a, I mean, it's a number to impress.

It's gotta be based on some third party calculation you guy can't, you know, the, the, the CEO just. Pull it out of his posterior, there's gotta be some something he can point to. So somebody has made some, some calculation, however, questionable that this is the potential market and they've, they've swept a lot of individuals, you know, he used the word creators, which is, you know, a lot of people who are now on Tik TOK or YouTube, or, you know, whatever at sea trying to set up.

Some, you know, a lot of side hustles in there, with people hoping to make money and maybe turn them into larger businesses, but still it's a massive, massive number

Mike: they do in relation to Apple's announcement about their business, it product, use the numbers closer to what you've traditionally used, which was 30 million United States in 200 minutes.


Greg: Well, that's the, that's the official number in the, in the U S that's the census bureau. The bureau of labor statistics in the U S is like 32. Now I think is the official number. And, you know, years ago, when I was working for the Kelsey group, we always sort of cut that in half or cut it down even further because of the reasons that you implied David, that there, there just wasn't a lot of disposable discretionary spending at the very low end.

So you had to go after somebody who had some budget and who was a more sophisticated model. To get that, you know, to get that, that, that, that money. But by the same token, the average spend was like 6,000 a year. The average S and B marketing spend was 6,000 a year. And it's probably no different today.

If we, if we look at it, you know, So, I was gonna say 1, 1, 1 other thing about the Vista Vista print. oh, I got, I got, this is not what I was going to say, but I used it a bunch of times, like for Joe, Joe, his cars, like I have these business cards that say certified Greg Sterling certified practitioner.

Mike: This is how they got to 800 million Greg. Yes, exactly.

Greg: Yeah. So I'm, I'm at least a hundred million of this. Anyway. No, I agree. I thought it was a, I thought it was a nice, rebranded and, and, you know, these, I knew what I was going to say. These companies now like Squarespace and Wix and Vista print Vista, and you know, others go day.

Yeah. They have a, they have a massive track record and they have, you know, they have real revenues. And so it's easy. It's easy to, to, to now look at them and say, you know, that space is. Investing in, you know, because they've, they've proven it, proven it out to, to a

David: large degree, I think. Yeah. And it's not, I mean, it's, it's not the traditional path to go down though, which is to start small and, you know, go into enterprise.

Right. I haven't seen too many companies other than the four or five that we mentioned in the last couple of years start some. Go even smaller. which is

Greg: it's the other way because people think, oh, why am I spending all this time and effort to try and get these very little accounts when I can spend less time and get much bigger accounts and, you know, 80 20 or something like that.

okay. So my topic today is kind of a hybrid, but, I wanted to start out with the, you.com search engine law. So this, this company, which I was unfamiliar with before this week, u.com or the that's the brand, launched the search engine and, showed up with $20 million in funding from Marc Benioff, from Salesforce and, and, and some other folks.

and it was interesting, you know, I wrote about it and it's kind of interesting because they're trying, you know, they're getting, they're getting data from some structured sources, Yelp among them and, Reddit and TripAdvisor and a few other. And they're trying to do a kind of a different UI, which I thought was interesting.

It wasn't particularly pleasing to me. I don't think I would use it as is, but I, at least I appreciate that. They're trying, and I appreciate that people are trying to do something new and different. You know, we had Neeva which launched, which is similar to Google and it's like, And, and these guys, and there's brave and DuckDuckGo and some others that are out there.

you know, the major question, whether anybody can get any meaningful usage because there's so much inertia around Google, you know, Mike, I'm sure

Mike: you have opinions. Well, the first question was this new product was going to be subscription.

Greg: dot com no Neeva is needed. You know, as far as I know, there's no, there's no ads right now and there's no subscription.

I could be wrong about that, but that's my understanding currently I do not talk to them.

Mike: So yeah, I played with it and I looked, I did a number of commercial searches and their commercial searches are heavily weighted towards results from Walmart and target. Large entities.

David: They've sorted out the

Greg: cesspool.

Mike: They've identified, you know, top 300 retailers and include them. the other was I thought that their local search results were weak. They're basically Googled API, which is not as good as Google. And from where I sit, the future of local is mobile and local. And there there's one big player now. And there's a player coming that I think.

Sort of under people's radar. The player now is Google and the player coming is apple. And they're clearly on-stream to develop a locally based discovery environment that will include, I think probably AR and other enhanced, you know, enticing things. And to me, that's where the game is going to be. you know, and I think that between the two of them, it makes it one thing.

Just having one entrance to, to fight against being never succeeded. These four or five, others are having a hard time. But I think having the two of them, both with their platforms, unless they get separated from their platforms by antitrust regulations, I think that the opportunities in this market are really long,

Greg: bet.

You know, I think, I think people are caught between wanting to do something that is not so radical, that it disorients people and needing to do something different enough. So it's differentiated because privacy by itself, which is duct that goes pitch is really not enough. I mean, I am a duck, duck go user.

but I, I don't, I'm not, that's not number one. Right. I'll use Google chiefly. And then occasionally I use duck, duck. and like, I, I was watching the show big mouth, which you may not have seen. It's a, it's a cartoon on Netflix. It's very funny. It's also not for children. And they, they, they have a song in which they make.

Lexapro. And that's some kind of, some kind of pharmaceutical drug and I didn't know what it was. It's an antidepressant. So I went to doctor go to look that up because I didn't want that in my searches for Google. Right. And so that's the kind of situation where I use go where I don't want Google.

Mike: What other sorts of searches do? Do

Greg: celebrity? Celebrities. So whenever there's like a celebrity search, I'll go to Dr. Cope because I just don't want to have any of that in my discover feed from Google. Right. So, so anyway, I just think uses

Mike: brave. I asked him the other day about it. He, over the two years, he has been using brave he's accumulated I think roughly $150 in tokens from clicking through ads.

Apparently users get some amount of reward. yeah, like any, there's a market for these things. These days you could convert it into Bitcoin or convert into cash if you want. But he said it's worth about $150. So there is some, and that was two years worth of views.

David: I'm an active user. I didn't even know that that was a thing I'm using brave for privacy and speed.

So yeah. Now

Greg: apparently, so how do you find, how do you find it?

David: Brave is years better than Chrome in terms of the speed of the browser in terms of sort of savings on bandwidth that it eats. Well, I use yeah. Google in inside of brave, right. Doctor go inside of brave, so, right. Yeah. Yeah.

Greg: Well, I think that privacy alone, it's interesting.

It's interesting because privacy is sort of an intellectual and an intellectual thing. It's an idea for people. It's like, the pitch from Dr. Goh and others is we're not going to explore your data. And people like that idea in the abstract, but I think it's not powerful enough to enter as much usage away from Google.

So I think you have to have a different, really different user experience,

David: but it's interesting that these bets are being made. Exactly.

Greg: Yeah, exactly. Because I didn't get to do my other items. Hey,

Mike: second beef. But the beds $20 million to Ben off, it's like, it's not like challenge. It's not that big. Right.

It's kind of like me going to the casino and thinking, oh, I can blow $50 tonight kind of deal. Right. Right. It's that sort of level of investment,

Greg: but. So you think these entrepreneurs are thinking that they're just going to ride this sort of privacy anxiety into some market share. And I think what's the, what's the, what's the end game who's going to buy somebody like you.com.


Mike: That's a good question. But I think they're betting on some regulatory environment in which they have a bigger opportunity than they do now.

Greg: Yeah. I th I think that's a, probably a fair point. So, well, we can, I'll bring my item up in the context of your discussion. I was going to talk about the filter bubble legislation, but, Mike, you wanted to talk about the P the piece you wrote on Google business profile.

And some of the lobbying that Google was doing to small businesses within that got a lot of traction, a lot of notice. And so it really struck a chord with people. What, what, what were you, what were you going to add to

Mike: that? Well, just that it struck me that it was such a gross violation of small business trust that they would use such a high degree of deceptive FID marketing with, you know, this underlying assumption that we're all in this regulatory fight together that somehow Google's interests are the same interest as a small business.

That, that, that, that the facts that they put forward were. Untrue and the proofs they use we're so biased. I thought it was a very yellow page, like sales thing with FID and, and Google has traditionally treated. Their small business is somewhat more delicately. And I just thought it, it really shows that Google is pulling off the, you know, the, the gloves and is going full on.

To manipulate public opinion to help them in their anti-trust fund. And you've got to think about this in the bigger picture. Like we have a society that says monopoly is okay, it's illegal. If you use it to hurt your competitors, but somehow it's not illegal. If you use it to manipulate the political environment.

And that strikes me as a society. That really sucks. That it's really hard to, it's like hard to imagine how that can be acceptable in our society. And yet it appears that there is no rules or laws against them using them monopoly to attempt to manipulate these small businesses. And I think when you look at it, that big level, it's like scary.

David: Well, and Greg, you you've made the point that there's, there's so many small businesses that, you know, may not, may not make the effort to. I understand the underlying story that's that Google is pushing at them. And in my mind, they're abusing the trust. I mean, Google is one of the most trusted brands by small businesses, according to the Alignable NPS and a whole range of other surveys that, they're they're in my mind, they abusing the trust, that businesses have in them.

And they're undoing a lot of the good. Tools like Google my business have done. there's no denying that they've that GMB and its predecessors have given small businesses, a ton of exposure at the expense of larger brands like Walmart and target that would have ranked for those queries. you know, without, without things like the local pack.

And this seems like just, You know, they must be really scared is the only thing I can say that the antitrust regulation is going to be successful.

Mike: So, yeah, today and yesterday, I don't know if you noticed in Twitter, but they've been rolling the same pitch out to words and their domain service. I don't know where else it's being rolled out, but

David: I got the email that.

Whatever a couple of weeks ago. And it was to an ad-words specific email of mine. Yeah. There you

Mike: go. So, so they're doing it and they're also in ad words, they ha you know, they have the notifications in the upper, right. Normally they're red and they show you there's one, two or three. This was an exclamation point, which I thought was almost cringe-worthy and it sort of, oh, you have a really important message.

Help us fight regulation against us message.

Greg: I think that very few small businesses are going to Pierce. Veil, so to speak in this case and really investigate who's behind these messages. And, you know, I mean, in fairness to the people who work on Google my business and, and work directly with small businesses, it's not, as you pointed out Mike earlier, before we went on, it's not, they're doing, this is some, this is some policy person or PR person somewhere in, you know, a cloistered environment.

Who's saying here's this, here's an opportunity for us to use. Captive audience to, to put pressure on legislators and, you know, it's, it's, it's something that Facebook has done in a different way. And Amazon to a lesser degree,

Mike: they all are surprisingly similar, almost

Greg: identical. Right.

David: Which, and you pointed out Mike in the, in the article that they're all part of this connected commerce council or whatever AstroTurf, you know, seemingly seemingly.

Utopian organization, that, that all these big tech companies are, are teaming up against regulation. So well,

Mike: public policy is separate from GMB. I don't believe that it is isolated. I believe that two things about this one, I believe from what I can gather the emails started several weeks ago. And Google tested them.

That's one, two. I also believe they were approved at the highest level. I do not believe that apple, that Google would go into this without top-down right. I just want to, you know, I don't want to leave anybody doubt that this is somehow. Yeah. Not a road rogue.

Greg: Yeah. Well that, that was that survey. Remember the G GMB sort of future services thing.

And that was this about as like a rogue person in Arizona or somewhere? Yeah, not a product roadmap. Not at all. It was a, it was just a anomalous event. So someone who was high at the time put up, has

David: anyone from Google responded to any. Major, I mean, obviously near media, as much as we'd like it to be. It's not a major press outlet.

Has anyone from Google responded to, and I've seen,

Greg: I mean, we could, we could, we could poke them and say, Hey, what do you think of this? And give us, on the, you know, on the record response. And whenever, whenever you ask for, for a response from Google, that is principal. They'll give you some very bland statement, you know, so it's, it's, we, we're always looking out for the best interests of our customers and we believe blah, blah, blah, et cetera, et cetera.

you know, it's, it's worth, it's worth noting in our sort of final couple of minutes that Google, Google face the, you know, in Europe this week, they, they were, they appealed a major. well, at the time it was a major, fine, 2.7 billion us fine against them for their shopping search product. the, the European commission, the competition regulator said was, you know, essentially searched bias, right?

The, the, the notion that Google is privileging its own product and harming competitors, they, they issued, issued the fine Google appeal. The appeal, finally went through and Google lost the appeal, and they have one more appeal, which they'll probably make, but it's a big deal because now it kind of signals to the regulators that they can go after Google and other vertical areas, including local and maybe another.

with, with the, with more confidence and, you know, there may be some similar importing of that thinking into the U S with all the things that are, that are happening. So, you know, I mean, I think that in a way that's more of a threat. I don't have a lot of confidence that these antitrust things are gonna play out in any meaningful way.

I mean, I think there's a lot of, a lot of, anger and a lot of expression of frustration. And, but I think, you know, maybe there's one or two things that will get through on the other side. you know, w we'll leave it for another time to talk about the filter bubble thing, but, well,

David: I was just gonna, I was going to actually bring it in here.

So do you, do you feel like the, the regulatory environment that the people in charge of the regulatory environment and that the legislators in the EU, do you feel like they understand what's going on better than American legislators do? Which clearly is pretty far from the mark based on this recent filter bubble legislation.

Greg: Well, I mean, I'm, I'm, I'm just observing from afar. I haven't directly spoken to any of them. I mean, I think they're like, like anything there's, there's people who are very sophisticated and people who are less sophisticated, but I, I, I, if I have to say, do the Europeans understand better than the Americans?

Probably. Although in the recent series of hearings that we've seen, the tech companies appear at the questions have been better, you know, that there's been, there's a lot more sophistication than there used to be, but the, the, the filter bubble piece of legislation, which would require. Search engines of a certain size, you know, companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook to have a toggle where you could turn off their album.

And get some uncurated set of results seems to be really naive in a certain fundamental way. You know, it's, it's a very weird piece of legislation because there's always going to be an algorithm. It's just really a question of how much, even,

David: even Yahoo's earliest days as a portal had an algorithm, it was humans picking that results.

Mike: And this was the, is the recent COVID chart. Bill Wright who's from Minneapolis. And my understanding of the bill was structured in such a way based on current income of 16. A million dollars. Yeah. There was, there was a, there were two thresholds Hulu excluded target, which is located in Minneapolis.

Greg: Well, yeah, there's, there's so many bills floating around.

It's hard to know who's and, you know, with the co-sponsors and there's a Kabbalah people who are involved in this, but, there's so there's, there's a couple of thresholds, one is a revenue threshold and the other is a usage threshold. Right. But, you know, these are, these are sort of attempts to reign in these companies, but they're not in many cases, they're not well-crafted.

And I think, you know, people don't really know what to do. Exactly.

David: not to say that GDPR was particularly well-crafted either. no. So

Greg: it's largely been a failure. That's largely been a failure. I mean, all of the privacy, CCPA, GDPR, largely a failure, the only privacy initiative that's really. Some success and we could debate whether that's true.

is, is the iOS 14 dot five opt-in app tracking chip transparency because

David: it's snapping others would certainly say that that's a meaningful,

Greg: well, you know, th th th the, the people at, tech dirt have called it privacy theater, because there are, there are developers who are circumventing it by doing fingerprinting and just sort of disregarding it, which then falls to apple to enforce by booting people out of the app.

So, I mean, I don't think it's privacy theatre, but it may not be as effective as it initially appeared to be. But that's a very exciting note for us to go out on that this week. Anybody want to say anything a little more accessible, perhaps cheerful? Well, Thanksgiving's coming

Mike: up. You are headed to Europe for three weeks and I want to wish you not three weeks, not

Greg: three weeks, 10 days,

Mike: 10 days.

I want to wish you safe travels

Greg: and have fun. Thank you. Yeah, it's going to be it's the first time I've gotten on a it's the first time actually I've gotten on a plane. To go anywhere since February of 2020. So, I'll be sitting there for 11 hours with my mask, lifting my mask and taking a drink and that sort of thing.


Mike: turn the air vent on high, you know,

David: keep the air circulating

Greg: and I I'll I'll I'll I'll plan on doing at least a couple of. Questionable, offensive rants during the flight to see what happens.

Mike: All right. Well, be safe and

David: enjoy your time over there. I, well, not jealous of transcontinental travel

Greg: right now.

I don't think, I don't think it's going to be so glamorous. but I will be, we will be putting out the newsletter and, we'll be doing this, broadcast next week and I'll be live from, I think, Berlin at that. I'm going to be in Berlin and Portugal. Okay.

David: David Hasselhoff?

Greg: Yes, that's right. Okay. He's a TV star slash recording artists popular in Europe.

Okay. All right. Goodbye, everybody.