Is Google stealing equity from your brand?

February 22, 2007 at 1:48 pm 2 comments

Ok, perhaps time for a little controversy…maybe I should have said: Is “Search” stealing equity from your brand? (I think the headline I used a little more attention grabbing though…) 

Let me throw this out and see what kind of response I get.  In fairness, the answer to this question is a big, fat, definitive “maybe.”  If you are a large company that has a very strong brand, ask yourself, as you think about your community and online presence, what impact is search having on my brand?  You are investing big money and resources in your site, content and online services but your customers are finding you via Google/(search).  Let’s say your customer has a question about one of your products or services.  They go to search (right?  That is what they do) and type in what they want.  Now, let’s say that the answer found is on your website.  Great!  Or is it great?  From the standpoint of the user, who just helped them get their answer, you or Google? 

Does it matter?  If it does matter, what can you do about it? 

Maybe this is nothing new.  If you are a consumer packaged goods company and you sell your products through retail, you take a lot of risk with your brand in how the retailer presents your products.

Does that matter?  I bet it does…what do you do about that to protect your brand?  Are the lessons of that supply chain model applicable in the online “answer-chain” model example?

Not quite done with this…Back to my example above where the user found the answer on your site.  Now imagine that they found the answer and it wasn’t on your site (perhaps in another community from another user instead)?  How does this change the equation?  Hmmm…economically, this might be good.  Assuming it is your intent and you’re not re-inventing the investment in content on your site that the community already possesses.  But this example is much more complex when it comes to evaluating the brand question.  There are other benefits of the answer being somewhere else; like it might be a more believable, independent answer.  I only include this example to make the point that if you are working through the online/community model in your organization, you should consider this scenario and decide how you want to treat it.

In the case of the vast majority of companies for whom your brand is largely unknown, this equation is different.  On whole, search helps your brand/company become more discoverable than it ever was before.  So, this is certainly not a 1 size fits all debate.   

Sean

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Entry filed under: General Community Discussion.

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