Branding is defined as:
“The marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products”
It’s interesting to speak to our clients (…and surprisingly some search folks) about leveraging paid search as a branding and awareness vehicle. Often times, there is little belief in search as a means to that end, but if you think about it….search is where the audience is! Sometimes the conversation is stunted simply because there are two different schools of thought on what branding is. On one hand, branding managers would agree that capturing a desired audience that may not be specifically looking for the product or service is what branding is all about. Another would argue that your category level search audience does the same thing, but with a pre-qualifier of intent. I tend not to get caught up in that argument and instead think of it this way: Branding broken down is about how, what, where, when and to whom you plan on communicating and delivering on your brand messages to by growing familiarity with a logo’s, website content, and promotional materials. Search can accomplish many, if not all, of those things.
Oh….Let me count the ways:
Search is the first stop in the consumer journey. Since it’s an answering mechanism at its core, you can rest assured that a category search for which your product falls, is your audience. Except, you get the added bonus of an actively engaged audience. In a phrase, “be there” – because your desired audience is already.
Since there limited spend waste in search based on the aforementioned, creating awareness in search is best coupled with a robust site hell-bent on branding. Fact – the user is starting a conversation with the engine, asking it to answer succinctly, and brand seek to be that answer. But when you become the chosen one via the click (queue silent monks singing), continue that conversation on your site or within your social channel. A social channel can be a powerful thing when a brand is liked on Facebook, retweeted on Twitter, pinned on Pinterest, etc. Think of the conversational “push” options that become available…go ahead…I’ll wait until your done basking in the awesomeness of that thought. Anecdotally, there are studies you can find on the web that support the search impression as being influential to brand recall, message association, and consideration.
Try keywords outside of the typical category set and focus on recent events and news, and become best friends with the long tail. Try aligning with enthusiast queries and pair with relevant content or utility – become less narrow. The goal here should be capturing users indirectly based a wide array of search possibilities using what you already know motivates them. As an example – if 30 year old Johnny is your desired consumer and he likes hiking, sponsor hiking videos and drive traffic to YouTube.
It’s quite easy to rotate creative messages in search, so try testing messages in the wild before they go live in other online/offline media. Read front-end and back-end results to determine winners. From a competitive standpoint, and with the right tools, search can provide you an interesting preview into what your competitors are doing to capture your audience. Measuring what your search audience clicks on most often can help inform site content across both paid and organic.
When things go well, it makes sense to direct traffic to positive accolades. More importantly, when things don’t go so well, people hear about it and search. It’s a great way to mitigate that negative impact by controlling the conversation by leveraging search directing traffic to positive brand messaging.
How have you used paid search to drive awareness and/or branding?