From Dropbox CEO: Why search advertising failed us by Anthony Ha,
What went wrong? Houston said the problem, particularly with search advertising, was that no one was actually searching for a document syncing product. That’s the danger with trying to solve a problem that may be real, but that people don’t realize they have yet.
“All the AdWords in the world are not going to save you if no one’s looking for what you’re making,” Houston said.
When people don’t know that they have a problem or they don’t know what a viable solution would be, they will not be actively searching for it. It’s quite true for me. I’ve never thought about replacing my thumb drives previously or how they can be replaced. So I was never actively searching for a solution or replacement.
And if people don’t search for it, using Adwords to promote your solution will not be effective. Drew Houston said, “search is a tool for harvesting demand, not creating it.”
So if a startup is building something so revolutionary, Adwords is probably not the first marketing tool to start with.
There’s an interesting counter to this in the comments section:
I guess the point here is to know what customers are searching for and include them in ads copy? Then again, it differs in every startup. Probably Adwords was not the best way for Dropbox to reach their early adopters. Their Digg video, on the other hand, did very well.