SEO Killed the Branding Star?

Remember this…

In the partial words of REM, “I…” may be “…losing my religion.” Or at least I feel like I am. I come from a branding heavy background, which I passionately believed in…beginning way back in my undergraduate classes, where I learned about the importance of developing a strong, consistent brand identity for clients…onto graduate classes where I learned that a brand is the promise of an experience…onto a 10+ year career in branding firms and advertising agency environments where I learned from some of them (it’s surprising how some are still focused on colors and photos and miss the picture entirely)…that a brand is how people perceive you and encompasses all aspects of a business from it’s name and identity to its offering to how its employees talk to its customers and everything in between…until one day…I entered the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM) world…and asked what is it all worth—BRANDING?

A few weeks ago, I began my new job at SEER Interactive and ever since I’ve been challenged to question, how important is branding if no one can find you? If your brand mandates that you have to refer to your product as “pre-owned,” but people are out there searching for “used,” how important is it to adhere to your brand? Will changing your web copy comprise your brand? Dare I say, more importantly, will changing your web copy hurt your sales?

Isn’t business about making money?

My belief starts to crack…and I think to myself…it’s kinda like the chicken and the egg. You need a strong offering before you can meet a customer’s need. Is branding just something we force onto the business after we’ve succeeded at generating some revenue? In reality don’t most businesses start as a result of finding a need and meeting it?

At the last agency where I worked a co-worker actually had a cartoon hanging on his door that consisted of two ad execs talking about post-rationalization and something to the effect of it being acceptable and alive. I now start to consider…is it possible that branding really is just post-rationalization? …UNLESS you acknowledge that it’s something that occurs organically at the engagement of your first customer encounter and extends beyond as you grow…in which case…I question, how can these branding firms take thousands and sometimes, millions of dollars from businesses to post-rationalize what already existed and then, fail at showing any impact let alone specific impact?

Again, I ask, at the end of the day…isn’t business about making money?

As I sit at my desk at my new job…I get to wondering…have I been brainwashed? Who really decided all of this branding philosophy and practice anyway? And just because someone decided it way back when doesn’t mean it works or it’s the right approach now…right? It’s kinda like that moment in life where you realize that not everything your parents taught you is actually true or right…remember that?

It’s weird for me to even have these thoughts. I feel like I’m partaking in blasphemy. I’ve heard other people bash branding and marketing many times, but now I’m questioning the importance and validity of it. How did this happen?

And then, I recall sentiment an accomplished, former employer, whom I respect wholeheartedly, used to always share, “If you’re not it business to make money then, you shouldn’t be in business—go start a non-profit!” I remember how much I love that! …So true, right? Even if your business is socially or environmentally conscious, your #1 objective is to make money…it’s always to make money!

So, if business is really about making money…why do so many businesses pay money to agencies to develop branding for them when the agencies can’t really produce any measurable results? I know this happens, because it’s the challenge we faced in all of the agencies where I worked previously—how do we show impact? How do we prove that our branding/marketing efforts are generating leads and beyond that how do we capture how many leads these efforts have generated?


With search it’s all about impact! It’s all about results—specific quantifiable results! No longer do I have to look at a client in a meeting and offer up some explanation of how we’re going to “Generate Awareness,” an objective impossible to measure, and then, smile in the hopes that that objective would suffice and that they enjoy working with my team and me enough to give it a shot and hope for the best—knowing that we will never really know! If you’re a marketer, I ask you…have you ever felt that way? No, actually I know you’ve felt that way…so instead, I ask you how many times have you felt that way? Too many to count, right?

The good news is that with search marketing it’s all there in black and white, or should I say, green!

I feel free at last! With search marketing I can show my clients exactly how much ROI they are earning.

SEARCH MARKETING allows us to:

• Estimate how many people are searching terms per month (using various tools)
• If our client knows how many leads it takes to close one deal and
• If our client knows the value of that one deal closing,
• We can estimate how much ROI our client should earn.
• And then, we can measure the impact of our campaign!

Try calculating your SEO ROI yourself…

Let’s get back to the reason why a business is started to begin with—to make money!

I fought for branding for the past ten years of my life and yes, it exists and has importance, but I ask you…how important is adhering to branding requirements if no one can find you? How important is a well-branded business if no one knows it exists?