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Is Brand Building Becoming Cool in Marketing Again?

Strategic marketing initiatives like brand building are back in style because the pandemic and politics have put trust top-of-mind; zero-click searches are just adding to the business case

Last year, 65% of Google searches did not result in a click, according to an analysis of data more than five trillion searches.

It’s higher for mobile searches, at about 75%, and lower for desktop searches at roughly 50%.

It’s 100% bad news for digital marketing.

In sharing the analysis on Twitter, one digital marketing consultant noted, the study scared him until he “started thinking about branding again.”

There’s a growing body of evidence that suggests he’s not alone.

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1. Gartner survey finds brand strategy the most vital capability

“Brand strategy” was cited as more important than any other marketing capability according to the 2020 CMO Spend Survey by Gartner. More specifically, 33% said “brand strategy as their most vital strategic capability.” The firm polled 432 marketing leaders across the U.S. and Europe.

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2. Survey of CMOs says brand building the top priority for 2021

The CMO Survey, by Christine Moorman, a senior professor at the Fuqua School of Business, found 28% said brand building is a top priority for 2021. Brand building was statistically tied for the top spot alongside retaining current customers. The study surveyed 356 respondents in January 2021 – 95% of whom hold the title of vice president of marketing or above.

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3. Media coverage drives search rankings

This final point isn’t a study, yet, but it’s an emerging consensus: media coverage, often earned through PR, may be more important to search rankings than backlinks or keywords.

When people see, read or hear about your company – they start searching for the brand online. That’s data a search algorithm can understand. I’d venture, the searches where someone is seeking out a brand have a higher click-through rate.

Brand building has been on the out-and-out for years

Marketing has beat up over measurement so hard and for so long, it all but jettisoned branding and brand building. The budget was more likely to go to those marketing activities that were easier to measure, rather than what was best for the company.

For some, downplaying branding, as a luxury activity rather than a scientific endeavor, became a badge of honor. I spoke to a CMO who proudly declared he wouldn’t invest in any activity that couldn’t be measured. His whole budget went to events, PPC and email marketing.

Why is brand building cool in marketing again?

But everything has changed.

From politics to pandemics, trust has emerged, again, as an incredibly important marketing factor. People buy from businesses they know and trust. The way to build trust is to build a brand. Marketing has a big role in brand building.

Zero-click searches, which is a trend that’s been unfolding for several years now, is just adding to the business case for branding.

Especially in B2B marketing, with its long sales cycles and multiple departments involved in decision-making, you can’t just show up in an inbox and close a sale. There is a point of diminishing returns to PPC. Even though we can see a potential end to the pandemic, event marketing won’t be the same for a long while still.

What we are seeing, I think, is equilibrium. The pendulum is swinging back, but the smart marketers will seize the swing when it’s in balance.

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Image credit: Photo by Jean-Louis Paulin on Unsplash and respective studies

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