“Dear Madewell, I am not sure why you would need to use my name and my trademark … Please take my name out of your ads.” This is what California-based designer Jesse Kamm had to say – in an Instagram post on Tuesday – upon learning that when you Google her name, the results consist of her signature high-waisted “Kammpants,” as well as lookalike trousers from Madewell. In short: in an effort to presumably boost traffic to its site and sell more of own its less expensive high-waisted pants (which Kamm says she has not worked on with Madewell), the retailer has been utilizing paid-for keywords.
Welcome to the world of keyword advertising, a marketing practice widely-used by brands attempting to cut through the highly-saturated web and target consumers.
Essentially what is going on here is this: Google – by way of its AdWords service – and other search engines offer companies the opportunity to purchase keywords for the purpose of advertising. Google displays search ads specifically targeted to the word(s) typed into a search box on the results page, and these keyword cause targeted ads also appear on content sites based on Google’s system’s interpretation of the subject matter on each page of the site.
Brands and retailers seeking to attract consumers searching for “quilted bags,” “running sneakers,” or “red lipstick,” for instance, will purchase these words so they their handbag, sneaker, and lipstick products are favored in the search results. Smart marketers have since taken the practice of purchasing keywords a step further and are using descriptions of their rivals’ products – or even their competitors’ brand names – in order to entice online shoppers.
This is what Madewell and Everlane, which are both making use of Kamm’s name to sell similar pant, are doing. So, when the term “Jesse Kamm Pants” is searched-for by Google users, the search engine links the specific products for which the companies have purchased those ad words and displays them as “sponsored” results.