While a strong, consistent brand built up over time is STILL the best guarantee of future sales, how you get there has been turned upside down by Google.
Traditional branding ultimately boils down to four pillars measured in Young & Rubicam’s popular tool, the Brand Asset Valuator®. This tool provides brand metrics on differentiation, relevance, esteem and knowledge. According to Y&R, the best brands maintain a higher level of differentiation than relevance. And their rationale makes sense. When a brand becomes more relevant than it is different, it becomes a commodity. And, outside of the digital world, the theory holds true. Think about what runs through your mind when you’re in a store and pick a product off the shelf or how you feel when you walk into a branch of your neighborhood bank. The problem is, people just don’t do those things as often anymore. They shop online. Or, at the very least, do their research online. Your digital brand is the first touchpoint.
Digital branding is all about following Google’s rules and providing the content people are searching for. That means relevance wins out over differentiation for three reasons:
Google will win.
This isn’t news to anyone. Google rules the online space. They own 86.3% of the market in the United States, and 88.8% globally. Source: karmasnack What they say/do online goes, and it’s high time brand managers get on board. Many of your current customers and the majority of your prospects start with a Google search.
Google doesn’t care if your brand is different.
Google’s algorithm updates in the past two years (Google Panda and Google Penguin) don’t measure whether your brand is different. They want your brand to provide a great user experience. They want your brand to avoid black-hat SEO techniques. They want your website to have content, above the fold.
Your audience doesn’t search for different.
When your audience heads online to look for you, what makes you different and unique is NOT what they type in the search box. They type in keywords describing the item, service or content they need in that moment. The one exception, of course, is if you’ve spent millions of dollars in traditional branding (i.e. Target or Apple), your audience might actually search for your brand by name. But, for most brands, that’s just not true.
Will it always be this way? Probably not. At some point, creating, optimizing and distributing relevant content with consistent brand messaging will become the norm. But for now, relevance is THE differentiator in digital brand strategy.