Brand Search Must Be Earned

Skinner In perfect world, all that digital marketers would need to do to is buy (inexpensive) brand search terms, sit back and let the steady flow of potential customers click, visit, and purchase. The strategy would be highly efficient and be able to operate at maximum scale.

Unfortunately, brand search does not just appear, it must be created through other efforts. That has always meant creating brand awareness through multiple channels including television and radio. But now, with people’s attention increasingly focused on smaller screens, those demand-generating efforts must happen digitally. In my last post I suggested that we cannot continue to rely on traditional media to create our brands; we live in a world where media is the screen and our strategies must be commensurate with audience behaviors.

Therefore, we need to engage in digital branding efforts like early-awareness phase search terms, consumer interest guided display and video—the types of activities that connect with potential consumers before they have even searched.

But too many times, we see companies relying on brand search alone, perhaps adding in some generic search terms around their product offering. Why? Because their measurement framework tolerates only these late-stage digital efforts. The marketer has the right intentions, but has developed the wrong framework for measuring success. With the right framework, however, digital branding efforts become a measurable, and ultimately profitable part of your marketing strategy.

So what is the right framework to generate and sustain brand search, or brand demand—and ultimately profitable growth? In my experience, the right framework for digital marketing has a minimum of four elements:

  • Who? A deep understanding of the types and priority of customers interested in the brand—who is most profitable; who will never be a customer?
  • Where? An understanding of market opportunity; what markets are under-leveraged and where are you over-focusing?
  • What (Message)? Media that connects to the customer at each stage of the Customer Journey—this is what ultimately drives demand and generates profitable sales.
  • Why? Ultimately, you have to understand why new customers have been created. This necessitates having a measurement system that supports different goals for each stage of the customer journey and connects media to profits—how does increased awareness media drive total sales growth across markets?

Before you run your next search campaign using brand keywords, think about whether or not your overall strategy can answer the five basic questions above. If you are not using a framework that captures more than lower-funnel performance metrics, you are missing the most important part of modern marketing—understanding how to create new customers in the digital channel.

Christopher Skinner is a frequent speaker at Google conferences and other digital industry events. He founded MakeBuzz in 2001 and has worked with over 250 leading companies, including Vodafone, Target, United Airlines and Oreck. Look for Christopher’s  column on The Makegood every month.  Namely.com_Free_White_Paper_Performance_Reviews