June 20th, 2006

Search Advertising Does NOT Build Brands

by

At the Cannes Lions Advertising Festival, search advertising is getting slammed for its inability to build brands — and rightly so:

Laura Desmond, chief executive of Mediavest USA, which advises clients such as P&G, Masterfoods and Kraft on buying and planning media, said: “Google is going to have to change its business model soon. Search alone isn’t where marketing is today. It is about search and branding and putting the two together.”

Of course, Google and Yahoo push back:

At the Cannes Lions, Google and Yahoo!, two leading search engines, on Monday promised to share more research with advertisers to persuade them search can be used in effective combination with traditional advertising to build brands as well as generate sales.

Damian Burns, head of European agency relations at Google, said: “There is a need for self-education among agencies and clients. But I don’t believe that you can have people being exposed to brands on search results day after day without that having an impact on brand building.”

Ok, let’s try an empirical test. I went over to Style.com and found this ad for Prada Perfume at Neiman Marcus.

Prada Perfume Ad

If you click through, you’ll find that Prada Tendre perfume sells for $95 — not cheap. Why would anyone spend that much on a bottle of perfume? Hmmm.

Next I went to Google and searched for “designer perfume” — sure enough, there was “Prada Perfume” at the top of the “sponsored” listings.

Google Designer Perfume

So there, you see, search advertising is just as effective.

Except it’s not.

There is only ONE reason why anyone would click on the Prada Perfume text ad — the Prada brand. And how did Prada build that brand? Through compelling IMAGES.

If it’s just text vs. text, then the transactional, price-driven ethos of search kicks in and instead the click likely goes to the Scentiments.com ad, because who wouldn’t want to “save up to 80% on perfume”?

So without brand, instead of shopping here…

Prada Neiman Marcus

You shop here…

Scentiments

Google needs to figure out brand advertising or it’s going to hit a wall very soon.

That concludes our demonstration.

Comments (43 Responses so far)

  1. interesting thread going w/Danny Sullivan et al over whether or not a brand can be built through search alone. Scott says no, saying that search is great for transactions but not for brand-building. Danny counters w/

  2. Yesterday’s post by Scott Karp on Publishing 2.0, which he subtly titled “Search Advertising Does Not Build Brands,” drew (trolled for?) search marketing’s strongest defender, Danny Sullivan. As the media planner/buyer for MarketSmart Interactive, a company whose roots are in search marketing, I figured I should throw my hat in the ring with this observation:

  3. Publishing 2.0 discusses a little exercise in online advertising

  4. Search Advertising Does NOT Build Brands

  5. Publishing 2.0.

  6. Publishing 2.0 » Search Advertising Does NOT B…

  7. Filed under: Web 2.0 Scott Karp has an interesting thread going w/Danny Sullivan et al over whether or not a brand can be built through search alone.  Scott says no, saying that search is great for transactions but not for brand-building.  Danny counters w/

  8. Search Advertising Does NOT Build Brands

  9. Thispost by Scott on Search ads vs Brand ads that comments on (and takes quite a bit further) this FT piece on the Cannes Lions Advertising Festival has been sitting on a tab since early this morning. I’ve even followed a great email conversation on it between fellow Performancing folks Chris and

  10. Sullivan points out that he believes that branding DOES occur due to search when a particular brand shows up time and again for any particular generic search phrase. Sullivan gives a couple of examples in his comments to another blog whereScott Karp of Publishing 2.0 has taken an anti-branding approach for search. (Sullivan comments are partially quoted below and the Karp post is linked from Sullivans post above.) “What do you think made Zappos a brand name when it comes to buying shoes online? Those magazine ads you saw for them? That TV spot? Wait — I

  11. [...] Rant about how search marketing doesn’t help build brands, presumably based on the fact that search adverts don’t show pictures. [...]

  12. Search advertising can be compared roughly to couponing. The purpose of a coupon is not to have any esthetic effect on the brand, but rather to stimulate trial through immediacy of offer.

    The companies who do best with search-based advertising are generally not producers of products but rather retailers (unless they are one in the same… which they sometimes are). The brand of the product has already been built for them and they are just there to facilitate the transaction. Even in the case you mentioned above where Nordstrom (a great brand) is selling Prada, it might as well be Billy Bob’s Redneck Perfume Shack selling it. The searcher already has an idea of what they want and they will seek the path of least resistance to get it. That path these days goes something like this:

    1. Search Google.
    2. Click on first or second result.
    3. Buy.

    I think Google will be just fine catering to this sort of advertising for quite some time. It’s really the only type of advertising thus far that has proven to wield a *measurable* advantage over its offline counterpart. True branded campaigns on the web are tough. The banner will never be the 30-second TV spot, but as you have mentioned in a few of your recent posts, the ability to get creative with the power of social networks and customizable spots may be the golden goose.

  13. One more thing: Take a look at the page you arrive at when you click on the Nordstrom link to the Prada product.

    Imagery. Sexiness. Great brand embracing great brand.

    In this case, Google is an effective proxy for getting you to a place where the Prada brand can be much more effectively pimped.

  14. Thanks for the comparisan, very useful food for thought. How a friend of mine called “teacher” puts it. People will buy it from google the first time. Then they’ll buy it from your online shop.

    Google’s golden goose is a chiken, it comes before the egg.

  15. Don’t you think using a brand like Prada as the example kinds of skews the exercise? While advertising in display mode for certain brands for ethereal products such as fragrances, alcohols, etc. will alway be necessary, Google’s search ads have opened up extensive, targeted advertising to a much broader pool of capitol. Prada needs to do search advertising (in addition to their other media spend) but so does Scentiments. And there are 1,000 Scentiments and only four or five Pradas.

    So yeah, high end display or demonstration, event-driven, whatever forms of marketing will always exist, but Google’s opened up the direct response advertising market to millions of smaller companies in virtually every industry on the entire planet. And the best part for Google, Yahoo! and others is that even after spending $XXXm on tv, print, outdoor, events, display internet ads, word-of-mouth, product-placement, etc. all those brand advertisers STILL Have to come to Google and spend $XXm to get at the top of those search results, because just like every other business on earth, THAT’S WHERE THEIR CUSTOMERS ARE.

  16. Scott, unless you are a brand holder who has tried search advertising, you really can’t tell much from your sit back and poke view.

    I have had actual brand holders speak at our conferences on this issue. They say that brand can help search and that search can help brand.

    Can you build an entirely new brand only with search? I agree, that would be tough (though the folks at iRobot are apparently one company that did that).

    Can you help reinforce a brand with search? I’ve had brand owners say yes — that having their listings at the top search results is giving them lift. Not a ton, but not worth dismissing, either.

    And consider, Scott — we’ve had several studies telling us that people will negatively judge a brand if they search and don’t find them. If they aren’t in the search results, then maybe there’s something wrong with the company.

    Also consider when you’ve discovered a brand, you might then go and research it — and discover negative listings. Think it’s not brand management to perhaps manage that with ads?

    Finally, consider this. Search is primarily an on-demand driven advertising medium. You don’t do a search and hope you’ll discover something that down the line will make you want to buy. That’s traditional brand building — blast someone with messages and hope they’ll get the urge to purchase.

    As search, you’re ready to go. You didn’t search for designer perfumes because you saw an ad and thought, hmm, maybe I want some perfume. You already knew you wanted perfume. You got listings — and those listings might be the very FIRST exposure you have to potential brands. You might have no clue of Neiment Marcus from Scentiments. You might not watch TV or read the ads in traditional media where they reach out. Your first brand exposure is in search.

    And you want to say there’s no brand impact in that? Of course there is.

    The traditional ad agencies diss the brand value of search because they fear search will suck up their overpriced dollars. And it will, as search is undervalued. The search companies push the brand aspect too much because they want their underpriced ads to get funded by brand money. The reality is that search is a fundamental marketing medium that must get mixed into an overall campaign — which is exactly what Laura Desmond was saying.

    But to say that Google must offer brand advertising or its going to be weak? Please. Sure, it will be stronger by doing so (and already does via contextual ads). But search ads aren’t going to die. They’re just going to get stronger. It’s not Google’s business model folks should worry about. It’s the model of traditional ad agencies who have yet to realize more and more spend will have to go to search, impacting their higher margin ad campaigns. Search marketers who have been in the game for a long time won’t be weeping about that.

  17. Danny, I didn’t say that Google is going to be “weak” if it doesn’t offer brand advertising, or that search ads are going to “die” — nor, Ted, was this a critique of the effectiveness of search advertising for the purpose it serves as a direct response medium (which is not to say it isn’t critique-able).

    I said it’s going to hit a wall — or perhaps better to say plateau. Google, Yahoo, etc. have already sopped up the existing search advertising demand — the obvious money for this approach to marketing is already online. Sure there will be growth, but not the kind that I’m sure Google is looking for, hence pay-per-click video, etc.

    And to be fair, Ted, Prada is an extreme example — perhaps it’s more accurate to say that search advertising does not build “premium” brands — although Coke is another ready example. I’m sure search advertising is building a brand for Sentiments.com, but its a purely transactional, dollars-and-cents-driven brand. Ebay is a great brand built online, but against it’s purely transactional and utilitarian.

    Danny, to hit some of your other points:

    – First, I wasn’t “sitting around and poking” — I read what actual “brand holders” were saying at Cannes and what Google and Yahoo said in response. Sure, my “demonstration” is not statistically significant — I’m just thinking about it, since I don’t have a mult-million dollar ad budget to experiment with.

    – I didn’t say it was bad for Prada to buy search advertising — I’m saying that search advertising never would have made them what they are — search advertising I’m sure does work for Prada in terms of boosting it’s brand presence and driving sales, but only because people already know Prada, and can know that’s what they want.

    – If your first brand exposure is in the search ads, my point is precisely that you’re more likely to be swayed to transactional/discounting messages, since those are effectively conveyed in search ads. Hence my conclusion that the Sentiments ad does MUCH better than the Neiman Marcus ad. Having a “brand impact” is not building a brand.

    – You’re right that agencies are terribly behind the curve in using all the new media now at their disposal, including search. Again, not the point.

    The point is that search does not do the kind of brand-building work that visual advertising has done. To say that there is brand building done by the company once someone clicks through does NOT mean that the search ad did that branding.

    And that leaves a lot of dollars out of Google’s reach for now. I’m not saying it’s going to put them out of business. I’m saying it will limit the kind of growth that they and Google shareholders wish will go on forever but likely won’t unless Google has access to ALL ad dollars and not just those allocated to search.

  18. Oh, and Danny, if you’re so sure this is not an issue, then you should probably call Eric Schmidt and let him know, because here’s what he said:

    “It’s a question of whether our system, which is so highly measurable, can really handle that . . . We have not yet come up with an approach that meets the kind of measurable . . . based advertising that we’d really like to put our brand and our name behind.”

  19. I though what built brands was saliency (it sticks in the mind) and relevancy (it does the job).

    Search is just a communication component in the sales process. What I might say is that you will find it very difficult building a brand just with “search”. Increasingly, however, you will also find it very difficuly building a brand without it.

  20. David,

    What I might say is that you will find it very difficult building a brand just with “search”. Increasingly, however, you will also find it very difficuly building a brand without it.

    Very elegantly stated — I definitely agree.

  21. > Google, Yahoo, etc. have already sopped up the existing search advertising demand — the obvious money for this approach to marketing is already online

    No, they have not. There is far more demand than the number of searches happening. That’s a key reason why the price per click keeps rising. Search marketers want even more searches and are paying more for it, as I’ve explained in a previous post over here. And personally, I do big conferences three times per year in the US. These continue to have heavy numbers of people who are brand new to search marketing and search advertising. Demand is growing.

    > Sure, my “demonstration” is not statistically significant — I’m just thinking about it, since I don’t have a mult-million dollar ad budget to experiment with.

    And since you don’t, sitting back and drawing a conclusion based on this single poking example probably wasn’t wise. I mean, the headline is “search advertising does NOT build brands,” and you’ve proven that how? By picking one example from afar to support that headline statement?

    I don’t entirely disagree with you. I think few people will likely BUILD brand using search alone. But there’s definitely some branding value in search — and the more you talk with some actual brand owners who are spending that money and who are NOT afraid search will wipe them out, the more you realize this.

    > I’m saying that search advertising never would have made them what they are

    True — and what do you think made Zappos a brand name when it comes to buying shoes online? Those magazine ads you saw for them? That TV spot? Wait — I don’t think they do that stuff. What they do is a lot of spending to show up in search engines when you search for “shoes” and related terms. You did a generic search, you keep seeing a particular provider, and you learn about that brand.

    Hey, need an espresso machine? I learned an entire new brand, Whole Latte Love, simply because when I was doing searches, I kept coming across their site. J&Rs in New York? If you’re in Manhattan, you know that brand as well as I knew Fry’s living in California. But J&R was a mystery to me until I kept seeing them in some shopping search results before making a trip to New York. Now that brand is rooted in my mind, not because I saw some offline ad but because I saw them first in search. That brand did build in my mind, to me.

    > You’re right that agencies are terribly behind the curve in using all the new media now at their disposal, including search. Again, not the point.

    It’s absolutely a crucial point. The agencies and others pushing out against search (saw Graydon Carton from Vanity Fair, see http://blog.searchenginewatch.com/blog/051003-150301) are largely doing it to protect their cash cow, traditional ads, from where I sit. Go back and read the Cannes article about how search keeps growing. That money comes from somewhere — from robbing other pies. So these players have a self-interest in saying “don’t forget the branding — search can’t do branding — search can’t do branding alone.” That’s especially the case when search isn’t paying them a 15 percent commission on spend.

    The search engines have their own self-interest in trying to make it seem like search does more branding than perhaps it can, a game they’ve played for years. The truth lies in between — but you’ve got to know the motivations of the players to ferret out some of that truth.

    > And that leaves a lot of dollars out of Google’s reach for now.

    Yeah, I don’t disagree — though Google is doing branded advertising and has done so ever since it began running image ads on web sites over a year ago. It would be interesting to see if they’d still get as much money but not doing these completely different types of ads, given that search spend will likely continue to rise. But it makes sense for them to also go in these other areas, so I doubt we’ll see the results of that.

    > Oh, and Danny, if you’re so sure this is not an issue, then you should probably call Eric Schmidt and let him know, because here’s

    I’ll be sure to ask him this when I do my Q&A with him at our Search Engine Stategies show in San Jose this August :)

    But with respect to Eric, they are already selling branded advertising on the web. They’ve been doing that with image ads (out in mid-2004) and with the video ads that are coming in. They also came out with CPM pricing in 2005 that’s especially designed to help those more interested in being seen than clicked on. But they may not have the right toolsets behind the scenes to better convince brand owners of the value of these venues. Also, the FT article doesn’t make it clear if he was also addressing the issue of Google doing radio ads and the so far failed print advertising system.

  22. While I agree that both Scott and Danny have valid points, I tend to side with Danny here. It is not impossible to build a premium brand using large doses of paid search. If you type into Google “luxury SUV” you get back results from brands like Audi, Infiniti, Acura, Lexus, all luxury nameplates. Now if you already have the infrastructure and dealerships in place, I could see a scenario where you buy your way into a top position using that key phrase.

    From the landing page, you could entice and entrall prospective buyers with high-quality images and luxurious appointments in your new high-end SUV model. You’d tell them go to the nearest dealership for test drive and see for themselves how it stacks up to established brands. Since, it is a new brand, you might have to give buyers a better warranty or price slightly less than the competition, but being positioned with already established luxury brands in the search results will give the new entrant a kind of halo that usually takes traditional and expensive brand advertising.

  23. I Do not think you can build a brand from search alone. My point is that Google’s got a great model because if you want to build a brand, search has to at the very least be a somewhat large part of your efforts, and in the meantime they’re raking in the dough from other players.

    Marketing is never going to be an exact science, and offline, other types of online, and event-basd pomotion is always going to be a huge part of any branding effort.

    But if I had to invest in a company that was able to deliver 10% of all high-end branding campaigns, or one that had 50% of search, I know which one I’d bet on.

  24. I understand Mediavest’s concerns: they are not making a lot of money when their clients spend their media budgets on Google AdWords v. TV or online ads. And yes, most advertisers are still in the dark as to how AdWords work.

    Yet, to advertisers 1.0’s credits, their brand (and clickthroughs to their sites) would certainly benefit from having pictures or videos displayed in search results. Google AdSense already does that with click-to-play video ads. When searching for designer perfume, to use Publishing 2.0. ‘s example, I could tolerate some visual ads in the sponsored results. This is the thin line between providing me with relevant information and enticing me to click and as long as these two do not contradict each other, why not? Note of caution: I would recommend Google to test whether its users would accept seeing Google’s purist white layout turned into a billboard before wide-scale rollout…In the meantime, advertisers will have to relearn writing compelling copy.

  25. Danny,

    And since you don’t, sitting back and drawing a conclusion based on this single poking example probably wasn’t wise. I mean, the headline is “search advertising does NOT build brands,” and you’ve proven that how? By picking one example from afar to support that headline statement?

    Oh give me a break! Are we doing controlled, double-blind scientific experiments here? It was a thought piece intended to spur exactly this kind of debate, which I find very valuable for learning. If you need 50 examples, I could give you 50 examples, but my intent was not to write a doctoral thesis.

    And for the record (and with all due respect), how big of a search advertising and/or brand marketing budget do you personally control that gives you license to have a view? You have spent vastly more time on search than I have, which is one thing, but to suggest that you actually have to BE a brand holder to think through the issue of brand advertising is ridiculous. The fact is that I have talked to many Fortune 500 brand marketers, and I’ve heard many perspectives on branding — polling these companies would provide a valuable perspective, but that’s not the end of the analysis.

    True — and what do you think made Zappos a brand name when it comes to buying shoes online? Those magazine ads you saw for them? That TV spot? Wait — I don’t think they do that stuff. What they do is a lot of spending to show up in search engines when you search for “shoes” and related terms. You did a generic search, you keep seeing a particular provider, and you learn about that brand.

    Hey, need an espresso machine? I learned an entire new brand, Whole Latte Love, simply because when I was doing searches, I kept coming across their site. J&Rs in New York? If you’re in Manhattan, you know that brand as well as I knew Fry’s living in California. But J&R was a mystery to me until I kept seeing them in some shopping search results before making a trip to New York. Now that brand is rooted in my mind, not because I saw some offline ad but because I saw them first in search. That brand did build in my mind, to me.

    Zappos is as purely transactional brand which fits perfectly with search. J&R and Whole Latte Love are the same thing — they built up in your mind as a PLACE to buy stuff, not as a choice of WHAT to buy. These examples don’t address the issue of building the brand for Prada, Coke, or Apple.

    I think few people will likely BUILD brand using search alone.

    That’s my entire point, so I’m not quite sure what we’re debating.

  26. How do you build a brand with search? Make a great product. Your customers will evangelize it for you on-line, and potential customers will find those links in thier search, possibly without your spending a single dollar on search advertising.

    Missing from this discussion is that search doesn’t just give you advertised results. If you search for a type of product, you’ll also see all kinds of links discussing that type of product. Personally, I find these much more informative than anything put together by marketing departments. Paying a lot to come up first when someone searches for “perfume” won’t build your brand if the rest of the top results are posts and websites slamming how terrible your perfume, store, and/or customer service is.

    Advertisers are terrified because search cuts out their ability to control the marketing message. Now your message is presented alongside the uncontrolled opinions of anyone that wants to put together a web page. The companies that succeed at brand-building with search will put their advertising money into making sure they design great products and communicate well with their customers.

  27. On the other hand, Dell is doing a fantastic job tearing down their brand via search.

  28. Oh give me a break! Are we doing controlled, double-blind scientific experiments here? It was a thought piece intended to spur exactly this kind of debate, which I find very valuable for learning. If you need 50 examples, I could give you 50 examples, but my intent was not to write a doctoral thesis.

    Hey, I’m cool with thought pieces. But that’s not how this came across to me, sorry. Headline was pretty straight-forward — “Search Advertising Does NOT Build Brands.” It wasn’t, “Does Search Build Brands? Maybe, Maybe Not.” Heck, you even went for capital letters to emphasize your belief that it just flat out seems not to do it. And you concluded, “Google needs to figure out brand advertising or it’s going to hit a wall very soon.” And all this was backed up by one single example. So I think it was pretty fair to point out that you might not have the support to be making such a declarative statement. At the very least, you might want to think about the issue a bit more.

    And for the record (and with all due respect), how big of a search advertising and/or brand marketing budget do you personally control that gives you license to have a view?

    I don’t deal with our advertising at all, so you certainly handle much more than me, which leads to…

    but to suggest that you actually have to BE a brand holder to think through the issue of brand advertising is ridiculous. The fact is that I have talked to many Fortune 500 brand marketers, and I’ve heard many perspectives on branding — polling these companies would provide a valuable perspective, but that’s not the end of the analysis.

    Sorry if I gave you that impression. Let me be clear.

    It’s pretty tiring sometimes to have people sit back and analyze the brand failure or successes sometimes if they aren’t actually part of a campaign. I get plenty of marketers who want to talk about how they think someone else should have done a campaign at our conferences. But then when you talk with someone on the campaign, you might realize there were entirely different goals. I had one large marketer tell me the ignore organic simply because they’ve made a decision it was too hard to get their tech people behind it. An outsider can poke at them and show where they are going wrong — but the inside story often helps you understand more.

    Now I sit back and do poking myself. I’ve done some of that above. But I try very, very hard to qualify if I’m saying something from my own personal views, that I could be off the mark, etc.

    If you’d started out your piece saying you’d talked to many brand marketers, that would have helped at least back up what you were saying — in the same way I’m telling you I’ve been on many panels listening to many brand marketers also talk about search marketing. And as for those brand marketers you’ve talked with, if they aren’t doing search — really doing it — then they might have no real idea of the brand value or not.

    So sure, your own personal experiences, what you hear from others, that’s all valid. But you kicked off your thought piece in a pretty specific manner to backup this giant conclusion that Google’s in trouble if it doesn’t do brand advertising. Hell, they could roll back and focus just on keyword search and be a pretty profitable business just for that, I’d say. They aren’t going to collapse, in my view, if they don’t get into the branding business. But they might not grow as much as those who view them as an ad company might like, as much as their shareholders might like.

    Zappos is as purely transactional brand which fits perfectly with search.

    And what, Nike isn’t? I can buy shoes from Nike online. Are they present in my shoes query? Nope. Any brand potentially fits in with search. People search for everything.

    J&R and Whole Latte Love are the same thing — they built up in your mind as a PLACE to buy stuff, not as a choice of WHAT to buy. These examples don’t address the issue of building the brand for Prada, Coke, or Apple.

    And so what, WalMart doesn’t count as a brand because it also is a place I go only to buy things? I think building up the brand as a store is as important as the building up the brand to buy things.

    But sure, there are things I might discover only through search as something I want to buy.

    I have a Plantronics wireless headset. I learned the Plantronics brand because I was a newspaper reporter and we had those headsets. Later, I went to purchase another headset when I was on my own as a freelancer and saw Hello headsets in a product brochure. Later still, I went back to Plantronics. It’s a good brand — and a good headset.

    But just for fun, I just did a search for wireless headsets on Google. Yep, plenty of people selling the Plantronics brand. But there’s also GN Netcom selling its own headsets. I’ve never heard of them before, honestly. And look, Palm’s advertising its own wireless headses. I didn’t even know they did their own.

    Those are two brands I just learned, one entirely new. I can imagine this situation goes on even more than this, but I feel it’s probably poorly documented. Few are trying to measure the brand value of search (Jupiter Research has documented this, as well as the irony of many marketers saying that branding is one of the top reasons they do search). I wish someone would study it. Instead, the search engines themselves tend to spend more time pushing the TV tie-in stuff they do, TV driving searches, search as an extension of brand building as a way to get more info.

    Actually, Yahoo’s done a number of studies I should dig into more to see if I can ferret out more specifics like this. Literally today, I got another release from them on health and search. Here’s a key part:

    70% of searchers will question their doctor if they are prescribed a brand different from what they searched for online.

    So imagine, you do a search because you think something’s wrong with you. You might see an article listed or an ad about some drug you’ve never heard of. You read more about it, plus the condition, then you visit your doctor. A brand was already built in your mind.

    Anyway, I’ll poke at it more. I think it’s undermeasured, by a long shot, and I’d prefer those metrics than the poking that either you or I can do :)

    And as for the debate, we disagree on the headline issue of whether search can build brand. I think it can, in varying degrees. We agree that it is hardly the most powerful of the brand building activites out there. I certainly wouldn’t want to depend on it alone nor count it as my main weapon. But it might turn out that poor old search is a better brand builder than perhaps we realize.

  29. Your example has some serious flaws. You start out on Style.com where there is an ad for Nieman Marcus showing a Prada product. You then search using a generic keyword and show a broad match ad for Nordstrom that uses Prada in the title. That’s not one brand initiative, that’s four different brands. Also, your point hinges on a huge assumption why a user would or would not click on an ad.

    It seems like you argument is that brand is built through images? If so, I have to disagree. Brands are built through experiences. Wal-Mart, Jet Blue, McDonalds, Apple…the list is endless. Search is more and more becoming the pathway to these experiences and as such the messages conveyed to users in this medium has more resonance than any other. This is, as Danny mentioned, because you are messaging to them at the opportune moment for it to have the greatest impact, as a user is focused on completing a goal. It is this contextual relevance fuels persuasion and raises consciousness.

    What people like Ms. Desmond don’t get is that the taxonomy of their traditional advertising businesses is dead. As far as I’m concerned they can give awards to themselves for creativity and imagery all they want. For those in search our eyes are on the real prize. Consumers are our judge and jury. Our awards are based on metrics like interest in the messaging, products, brands and user desire to engage and purchase.

    We are just scratching the surface here of the power of search. As the technology provides more relevance so too will its influence. This makes it clear to me that it is misplaced to have the conversation focused on the medium. To directly relate this to your post, it’s not up to Google to figure out brand advertising on search. It’s up to marketers.

  30. [...] Publishing 2.0 » Search Advertising Does NOT Build Brands (tags: advertising brand search google) [...]

  31. Search marketing DOES build brands…

    Leave it to someone who has little to no experience with any real world search marketing to make a ridiculous statement that “search advertising does NOT build brands.” That is what Scott Karp from Publishing 2.0 is saying today….

  32. Danny,

    Headline was pretty straight-forward — “Search Advertising Does NOT Build Brands.”

    Something I do have experience with is blogging — and headlines like this are a great way to get people like you to show up, engage in a debate, and flesh out the issue. I don’t blog to make wishy-washy statements that anyone can agree with. I try to push my thinking and my reader’s. Sure the headline is a bit sensational, but it works. What I’m interested in is the conversation that takes place down here in the comments — kind of like writing good effective copy for your search ads to get people to click.

    At the very least, you might want to think about the issue a bit more.

    That’s precisely what I’m doing — blogging is how I learn. I’m not out to win a popularity contest by being part of the echo chamber and embracing conventional wisdom. Nor am I out to win an argument if that argument is not winnable. When commenters pile on and tell me that I’m wrong, I learn, and people who read the conversation also learn. Another blogger linked here and encouraged readers to come here and see how you “ripped me a new one.” I’m fine with that. It’s part of the industry learning process.

    But I try very, very hard to qualify if I’m saying something from my own personal views, that I could be off the mark, etc.

    How do I represent what I do here as anything OTHER than my personal viws? This isn’t a peer-reviewed journal, and it isn’t an in-depth research study. The comment section is here so people can disagree — and when they do, sometimes I critique their arguements, but I “try very, very hard” not to impugn their credibility.

    But they might not grow as much as those who view them as an ad company might like, as much as their shareholders might like.

    A more appropriately precise articulation of what I meant by “hit a wall.”

    But just for fun, I just did a search for wireless headsets on Google. Yep, plenty of people selling the Plantronics brand. But there’s also GN Netcom selling its own headsets. I’ve never heard of them before, honestly. And look, Palm’s advertising its own wireless headses. I didn’t even know they did their own.

    The top ad on the “wireless headsets” search is for headsets.com — if you’re doing such a generic search, you likely don’t know what you’re looking for, so it’s a good bet that gets a lot of clicks. And when you click through to headsets.com, what do you see?

    Plantronics Headset

    An IMAGE of a Plantronics headset. That’s brand engagement. Not the search ad. The word “Plantronics” means nothing and carries no brand value until there is something to EXPERIENCE.

    If you had never heard of Palm, would it mean anything to you that they were advertising wireless headsets. A bit of text is not the greatest way to introduce someone to an experience. Sure it can lead you to something that does brand-building work, which is why I didn’t say that search advertising has no value. But the ad itself does not build the brand.

  33. >This makes it clear to me that it is misplaced to have the conversation focused on the medium. To directly relate this to your post, it’s not up to Google to figure out brand advertising on search. It’s up to marketers.

  34. Scott, you certainly have the right and power to censor my 6/23/06 comment, but I would really appreciate knowing why.

    My comment evolved around new forms of brand building advertising/marketing of which Search Marketing is one. But, since I don’t think you will publish this comment either, I’ll cut to the chase of my former comment’s point by directing you to a link I found by reading “The gordon Gould Weblog” 6/24/06 comment that you did publish (I assume that if you are publishing 6/24/06 comments that you censored mine – If I’m wrong, I apologize).

    “The gordon Gould Weblog” link to this blog post which is more detailed than my censored comment says pretty much where I’m coming from in a review of the book “Brand Hijack”:

    http://blogcritics.org/archives/2005/04/22/100446.php

    PS – Thanks for disclosing to Danny and your readers that your title for this post was a form of “title bait” used to solicit comments. I’m just curious why you are allowing some comments and not others?

  35. Bill,

    I don’t now, nor have I ever censored comments. I apologize for the delay in posting your comment. Two things for you to keep in mind before you jump to conclusions:

    1. I’m not a 24 hour operation
    2. I get deludged by comment spam — occasionally, a legitimate comment gets lost in the shuffle

  36. Scott,

    I understand and empathize!

    I’m just curious now if my browser is the cause of my Comment #28 not being able to open my entire first comment when I click on the “Comment Link”, or is this due to what you just said about a legitimate comment being lost in the shuffle? Either way, I’m OK with it, but just curious.

  37. folks,

    this has already happened even if no one in techland is paying attention. over in fashionland we’ve united ALL THE BLOGS (perfume bloggers included scott), figured out branding (message diffusion) versus conversion (reviews to sales), and are working with the large fashion PR firms to help them interact with online media.

    yawn. the revolution has already happened, gen-y has moved beyond theory into practice, and we’re doing rather well. however, because we’re not another photo-sharing site, techcrunch won’t cover us and thus you guys miss out on all the fun.

    kthx,
    phil & julie

    http://coutorture.com/community

  38. [...] Thought-provoking blog article on “Publishing 2.0″ about the need for images in brand-building and how this falls down with text-based search.Search advertising does not build brands article.Ian Jindal [...]

  39. [...] Indeed, there’s been an interesting debate on how one can’t “build brand” via a search engine conducted at the Publishing 2.0 weblog, and this blog article illustrates graphically the user experience on a luxury, branded purchase journey how the search+buy experience does not really allow space for the retailer. [...]

  40. [...] a brand”: Google | Yahoo! Search | MSN Search Beta | Gigablast | Ask Jeeves  Comments (0) :: Bookmark :: Permalink ::Trackback [...]

  41. With all due respect, your example wasn’t scientific and was based only on your view, which is OK, but let’s be honest. You’re not familar — and Laura’s not familar — with Google’s options. One can show an image in a Google ad and thus present their brand. Please investigate this. Thanks.

  42. [...] with branding. Scott Karp over at Publishing 2.0 has taken a fairly anti-branding stance in his Search Advertising Does NOT Build Brands post, and here’s some of my counter-response to him in the comments: What do you think made Zappos [...]

  43. [...] “build brand” via a search engine conducted at the Publishing 2.0 weblog, and this blog article illustrates graphically the user experience on a luxury, branded purchase journey how the search+buy experience [...]

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