There is an interesting thread on Jacques Warren’s blog that is quite distinct from my discussion of branding but has a definite relationship to it. Brand marketing is a surprisingly big part of even the most direct aspects of web marketing. Both the post itself and the ensuing discussion are well worth reading.
Jacques' post comments on the high-propensity to brand search on Google (and not just Google).
Indeed. The degree to which Search Programs are “branded” can be shocking given the industry-wide focus on the “long-tail,” on direct-response techniques, localization, landing-page optimization, etc. Most of these techniques don’t make much sense or difference when 90% of your visits are people typing in your company name (though if you haven’t tried them maybe you can change that ratio).
There is nothing inherently wrong with “branded” search. But I can’t help but feel that it’s sometimes a bit of a con. Search Marketers often talk as if they are the world’s greatest channel for early-stage prospecting even when the programs they run are little more than glorified signposts to known web sites. This isn't always true, of course. Just true often enough to be scary.
I have yet to see a search program where the “branded” component didn’t have fundamentally different behavioral and performance characteristics from the non-branded part. This is common knowledge, of course, and it is pretty much accepted practice to treat and measure “brand” and “non-brand” components as distinct elements. So if your SEM program isn’t making the “brand” component of your search program visible and treating it distinctly, you need to think about changing your SEM program.
And, to me, it’s just another indication of how important brand often is. There are plenty of direct response people who sneer at branding at the same time that the success of their program is largely driven by the strength of a brand.