“All I have is a crush proof box and four out of five dead people smoked your brand.”
I was a big fan of Mad Men in the early seasons. This quote stuck with me as being one of those great marketing observations. Unfortunately, the show writers passed right by it without paying attention to the four-out-of-five statistic. The brand of cigarettes was no deadlier than others; it was just that more people smoked it. Brand impact.
In marketing and advertising terminology, branding involves plastering your logo and name in as many places as you could afford to do so and determining the ROI by asking folks whether they remembered your brand about a month later. The basic purpose of branding, which remains unchanged today is to get potential customers and referrers to remember your company/brand/products so you’re in the decision pool when it’s time to buy.
The classic AIDA funnel describes the buying process simply:
People have a choice of brands for almost every product in the world. When they pick yours, you want to know why. Did you rank higher in the SERPs? Did your print, radio, TV, or online ad campaigns get to them? Did a friend recommend you? Did you use GroupOn?
In terms of SEO, having a strong brand is like being the Yankees. You’ve got so much behind you that you’re pretty much always favored to win. As Bill Hunt said in his keynote at SMX Stockholm, for existing major brands, it comes down to showing up and getting the fundamentals right. For SMBs, you’ll need to tweak and pull every lever at your disposal to beat the advantage that being an off-line big brand brings to enterprise size competitors. For several years, SMBs have had an unusual advantage over major brands that can only be described as benefiting from the myopia and corporate sluggishness of large companies. Once major brands get their collective SEO act together, the web is going to look pretty much like Main Street and malls: major brands everywhere with very, very little space or attention left for small business to get in front of potential customers.
Big brands can steamroll their way to great link profiles. Rand Fishkin, of SEOmoz, points out that companies with powerful offline brands have a strong advantage over smaller brands when they get online. Any page on the nytimes.com is going to rank well right off the bat. You can’t say the same for the freshly published articles of any Podunk Daily News site.
Search bots look for signals of offline brand stature, including press releases about corporate partnerships, public trading, fluctuating stock prices, new product releases, changing prices, TV ads, national level contests and social media interaction. These are the features of big brands and it garners them attention from people and search bots alike.
Bryan Eisenberg notes, “The complex and interconnected relationships between emerging media and the information they [companies/brands] now make available, means that name recognition and associations alone are insufficient. Increasingly, customers are associating brand not with a message, but with their entire experience surrounding the product or service. In other words, branding is now more about what you do than what you say.”
So what are the clear takeaways? What should you and your client be doing to create strong brands and reap the benefits of increased SERP rankings and conversions on and off line?
Banner ads are not dead.
The value of having your name, logo, and colors in many places shouldn’t be completely dismissed.
Once a customer has expressed enough interest to stop by your website, remarketing with clear branding can provide a very powerful conversion lift. There are many reasons why a sale may not take place on the first visit. Use remarketing to keep your brand - expressed in words and images in addition to your logo - in front of potential customers. When they’re ready to buy, you’ll be in their decision pool.
Get Your Social On
But, in keeping with Bryan’s statement above, and Rand’s recent webinar, create and engage frequently on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. Run contests, check out successful brand communities such as Lane Bryant. Lane Bryant asks its growing fan base, “What color do you feel like today?” They get their customers. They don’t ask, “What color do you like?” They give you a free platform among women with similar experiences to express how you feel in terms of color. I’ve seen the results. When that question was posted, more than 1,000 responses, some of them richly and eloquently written, were submitted within in less than an hour. That’s what I mean about deep engagement. If your posts aren’t getting responses, you’re not deeply engaged. Try another tack.
Make it easy for people to remember you. Choose a name that evokes something else in the minds of your target market. Slingshot SEO banks on the fact engaged individuals will remember our name and associate it with a team of experts who can leverage something small to make a really big impact. Choose colors and a simple, distinctive logo and stick to them.
Use your brand wherever you go. Make sure your brand is clean, clear, and consistent across all the channels and in every instance you use it. Pimp out your Facebook and Twitter pages to include your brand, images of the people in your company - people connect to people far more easily than they connect to a brand. Meld the two to get more traction.
When quoting your customers in testimonials, put the brand they’re talking about next to their face and quote.
Become known for what you do. Bryan’s quote above demonstrates the need to be congruent in your business practices and your advertising. The combination establishes the reputation of your brand. What do people associate with your brand? Good or bad customer service? Longevity or short shelf life products? High end or low cost disposable? Determine what you want people to think of your product and service and follow through internally in your company. Zappo’s couldn’t sell the idea that they are selling happiness if they didn’t follow through. Zappo’s customer service reps will sell you slippers and order a pizza delivered to your hotel in Vegas if you ask them to. They just want to make you happy. And that becomes part of their brand.
Make sure Google recognizes you as a brand. Follow these quick initial steps to ensure that search engines can distinguish you from the “generic” websites.
1. Does your brand have a LinkedIn company page and people who say they work for you?
2. Do you have a company Facebook page?
3. Do you have a company Google+ page?
4. Do you have a followed/verified Twitter account?
5. Do the about/contact pages on the site exist and contain robust info?
6. Does your business have a taxpayer ID, proof of registration in a government/civic organization’s accessible database?
7. Are there signals/evidence of offline marketing or advertising campaigns?
8. Does your business have an associated address via any trusted local data sources?
These are just a few of the steps you and your client should take to maximize your brand impact. Google should easily be able to distinguish your branded site from non-branded ones. What did we miss? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.
*Photo from: blogs.amctv.com