Random House English Dictionary defines a brand as “A word, name, symbol etc. one legally registered to identify its products distinctively from others of the same type and usually prominently displayed on its goods, in advertising etc.”
In A New Brand World: 8 Principles for Achieving Brand Leadership in the 21st Century, Scott Bedbury writes, “A brand is the sum of the good, the bad, the ugly and the off-strategy. It is defined by your best product as well as your worst product. It is defined by award-winning advertising as well as the god-awful ads that somehow slipped through the cracks, got approved, and not surprisingly sank into oblivion. It is defined by the accomplishments of your best employee – the shining star in the company who can do no wrong – as well as by the mishaps of the worst hire that you ever made. It is also defined by your receptionist and the music your customers are subjected to when placed on hold. For every grand and finely worded public statement by the CEO, the brand is also defined by derisory consumer comments overheard in the hallway or in a chat room on the Internet. Brands are sponges for content, for images for fleeting feelings. They become psychological concepts held in the minds of the public, where they may stay forever. As such you can’t entirely control a brand. At best you can only guide and influence it.”
This is my favorite book ever on branding…I know it’s old school, but if you take a look at the very last few sentences above you will see that it’s a theme that has withstood the test of time. “Brands are sponges for content, for images for fleeting feelings”– fast forward today – search engines are sponges for content, for images and with the dawn of social media and live search they are now sponges for fleeting feelings too. Heck, people are sponges for search engines. We love them and go to them in droves. Everyday we reach out to a search engine and ask it to find us something, show us something or make us feel something (I don’t go to any of those sites!). We put our hands up quietly and in the privacy of our computers and we ask the search engine to find us a new mortgage, locate a client office, research our new bedroom furniture or watch a cat flush a toilet. (I’ve never seen that video!) The point being that we ask the search engine to show us results. That’s precisely the real finesse or some would say the art of Search Engine Marketing (SEM) – learning how people ask for things.
A very smart SEM guy I work often tells me that search is the opposite of push advertising. In fact, he’s actually called it lean-into or lean forward advertising because often we actually gesture forward towards our computers as we delve into a search. The outcome of this search is often called the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). It is on this SERP that your organic brand position occurs. We refer to this as your organic result. Where do you show up, if at all, what do you rank for and what shows up on the results (links, texts, maps, images, videos, twitter posts etc.) and then finally where does the link take you or show you. In other words, what do you want to show up for when someone asks the question of the search engine that’s related to your product or service?
Herein lies my new definition of an organic brand – thank you Scott Bedbury for the template! “Your Organic Brand is the sum of your best keywords and your worst facebook comment. It is defined by your crisp, fast loading product shots and your choice of comic sans as a web font. It is defined by your broad spectrum local landing pages as well as the god-awful ad word copy that had negative click thru rates (I know I’m being superfluous and you can’t get negative click thru rates but the I’ve seen ad copy worthy of it). It is defined by the description text and the choice of background song you wish to loop while visitors stroll your website of lawn ornaments. For every grand and keyword dense press release by your CEO, the brand is also defined by the derisory consumer comments of your mascara’s inability to remain clump free. Brands fill the search engine sponges with it’s content and images and the thoughts and feelings of everyone who’s talking about it at the moment of a search”.
What’s your organic brand say about you? Go ahead, google yourself.