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Google Hotpot launches first local marketing campaign

Google Hotpot, a local recommendation engine, launched a b-to-b direct marketing campaign in Portland, OR on December 9. The goal of the effort is to educate businesses about the benefits of using Google Places to gain exposure, increase online ratings and reviews, and boost traffic.

HotPot sent business kits to local companies with “strong online presences throughout Portland,” said Jeff Aguero, Google product marketing manager. Any company with a Google Places page can request a kit.

Google Hotpot uses customer ratings and reviews to personalize search. Hotpot uses information gleaned from a customer who rates businesses to determine what establishments to recommend on that customer’s next Google search. It is similar to Pandora Radio‘s thumbs-up/thumbs-down rating system that determines what types of music to recommend to its members.

“If you give “Pizza Place X” a five-star rating,” said Aguero, “then the next time you search for pizza in another city [Hotpot] will know that Place X is similar to Place Y, and Hotpot can enhance your search results.”

Each kit contains an interactive “recommended on Google” window sticker. The stickers use Near Field Communications technology to allow smartphone users to touch their phones to the sticker to find out more about the business.

The kits also contain customized cards, stickers, pens and fortune cookies for Chinese restaurants, among many other items.

Google will also partner with VooDoo Doughnut tomorrow to promote the service. Customers who stop by VooDoo Doughnut starting at 10 AM will receive free Google-branded coffee sleeves. Last night, Google gave away 22,000 t-shirts at a Portland Trailblazers game.

“We want to make sure businesses are able to evangelize to their customers so that customers can share that they’re having a good experience,” Aguero said. “Then businesses will be able to drive even more customers through the door.”

Hotpot launched November 15.

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