Google’s new study on branding and (PPC) Pay Per Click advertising has interesting branding implications.
In marketing, there are two broad types of content: branding and direct response.
Branding content tries to create favorable impressions of a brand in the mind of a consumer. The more impressions, generally, the more likely it is that a certain brand will be in a consumer’s awareness when they go to make a purchasing decision. This is called brand recognition or brand awareness.
Direct response, by contrast, is all about the “see this, go here, do this” chain of events. In other words, it tries to get a consumer to take a specific action right away, whether it is to buy something, sign up for a newsletter, click on an ad, etc.
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, traditionally, is a direct response tactic. You see an ad, you click on it, you go to a landing page, and you either take action or buy something.
But according to a study from Google, you can actually get top-of-mind branding benefits from a paid search ad.
Branding from PPC Ads: Study Shows Increase in Brand Recognition
To study the relationship between a paid search ad and brand recognition, Google and Ipsos MediaCT ran a study on PPC advertising and branding back in 2013. From the AdWords blog:
“In each of the studies, 800 qualified consumers ran simulated searches for certain category keywords, like ‘hiking boots’ or ‘small cars’ on their desktop or laptop. They were then shown either a Control search engine results page (SERP) or a Test SERP created for the study, which put the test brand in the top search ad position.”
The control group saw a standard Google SERP, with paid search ads at the top and the right, with organic results below. The test group saw a specific brand’s ad in the top position, followed by other search ads and organic results.
Consumers were then asked to identify what brand came to mind when they thought about one of the specific category keywords they searched for. What they found was impressive: on average, 14.8 percent of the participants in the test group named the brand whose ad appeared in the top spot.
By contrast, only 8.2 percent of the control group named that brand.
In other words, having a paid ad in the top position resulted in an 80 percent increase in brand recognition and awareness — even if the user didn’t click on the ad.
Implications for Branding and PPC Advertising
What does this study mean?
For starters, the initial implication is beneficial for businesses who want to get extra bang for their buck when it comes to PPC advertising. You can attract attention and generate leads from your direct response efforts, but also get added value just by having the ad for your overall brand recognition.
In other words, businesses who want to build brand awareness first and foremost have more of an excuse to get into PPC advertising and direct response marketing.
Of course, there are caveats. The study only took a look at the top ad spot, which naturally is the most-viewed ad position. What about other ad spots? Were there brand benefits for those as well? The study doesn’t say, but it’s safe to extrapolate a bit and say that the “brand boost” is less for those spots than the top spot.
Another caveat is that getting into that top ad spot is more expensive and difficult than other ad spots. It’s determined by the amount of your bid plus your ad’s Quality Score, which basically evaluates your ad based on relevant, landing page quality, and clickthrough rate.
For small businesses who are just getting into PPC advertising, that may not be feasible. Then again, these businesses — and those with limited budgets — typically benefit more from direct response tactics than brand awareness tactics anyway.
At the least, Google’s study is intriguing and gives brands something to think about when it comes to branding and direct response marketing. What do you think?