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Sunday, February 25, 2024

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A Novel Idea: Branding Your Search Ads With Your Brand Name

When a consumer does a search for your brand, shouldn’t you be branding? It may sound like an obvious question, but you might be surprised how many brand owners are squandering an incredibly valuable opportunity to connect with their customers.

Wikipedia defines “brand” as a name, sign, symbol, slogan or anything that is used to identify and distinguish a specific product, service, or business.

But a brand is much more than that. A brand is more aptly defined by its intangible qualities: a brand is a promise, a feeling, the total perception in your mind. And so it follows that branding requires much more than just a regurgitation of your name.

Brand marketers know this—that is why there are entire teams in your organization, agencies and fields of study specifically devoted to the development of brand. So why then, when we search for a brand on Google, Yahoo, Bing, or any other search engine, the very essence of branding is missing?

While we think of search as a direct response vehicle, it is also an extension of the totality of your advertising efforts, and as such one would expect to find a brand when you search for a brand. If you subtract the branding from your brand, you are left with a bland template that could be filled in by any product or service. You are essentially undoing your brand—I call it “unbranding.”

Examples of unbranding

Here are a few examples of things that you are saying in your ad copy, Mr. and Mrs. big brand marketer, that are examples of egregious unbranding:

  • Click here for a cheap deal
  • Get a gift card
  • Find out about pricing
  • Official site
  • Get information on products

Let’s take a closer look at a few of my favorite brands in the offline world who are doing a great job at unbranding (that is not a compliment) on their brand name keywords in search results.

Mountain Dew

Mountain Dew

The Google organic listing on your brand name has absolutely no branding in the messaging, which is ironic, since the description is drawn from the meta description tag, so someone has clearly given the contents of the search result some thought. So what happened the famous slogan, “Do the Dew” that you’ve probably spent millions to promote? I do like the brief mention of action sport, but for your brand that is not enough. Why don’t you try a paid search campaign as well, instead of ceding the result to a comparison shopping search engine that’s promoting “Mountain Dew: Cheap”—an unintentional but powerful additional unbranding effort? Paid search will give you additional control over your messaging.



The paid listing on your brand name tells me to go and visit a store in Washington DC. I once learned that fleece comes from recycled bottles because of your efforts, which had clearly left a strong impression on me—did you forget?

LL Bean


The paid listing on your name tells me that you are a good cheap deal. Aren’t you the catalog for folks who like to look good with functional clothes and be outside (or something like that)?


VW paid

Your paid and organic listings state that you offer product information. But your TV ads showcase fun people playing “punch buggy.” You do mention this briefly within site links, but your main ad copy doesn’t drive home your branding message.

By contrast: Some great branding examples

Here are some folks using branding in their search listings and doing it well.



REI’s paid ad tells us that they are about inspiration and the outdoors. They also brilliantly use the new site links feature in Google to advertise the less brandy stuff like 20% off deals. Folks who shop at REI know that one of the reasons they do is because when they enter the store they feel inspired to climb a rock.



Your paid listings are suffering, but your organic listing hits it with quotes like “Sheer Driving Pleasure,” plus 4 links to specific models.



You take insurance and make it fun via your display URL in your paid search ads while staying on point with your messaging.

The key point here is that it is not enough that your ad or listing has your brand name in it. If a consumer could easily remove your name and replace it with any other business, then you have lost a bit of your messaging and your connection with your customers. Search doesn’t have to be a bland media reserved just for specials and deals. You can have fun with it. You can reinforce your brand with it. In the words of another well-known brand, “Just do it!”

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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