(The following hails from guest blogger, Byrne Hobart)
Leo Burnett was never one to shy away from the branding iron. Why spend millions hounding your prospects to convince them they needed corn flakes, when you could have Tony the Tiger do it for you? Tony works 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and he doesn’t require health insurance.
But even though the Pillsbury Doughboy and the Jolly Green Giant don’t need to eat, you could starve to death trying to emulate them. Creating a character is expensive! You have to invent the character, of course, but a one-shot ad isn’t going to be enough: it takes a sustained campaign to lodge something like that in the public consciousness. It’s a big investment that only really makes sense on the national level.
But something has changed.
It’s possible to get the same kind of branding power that was previously only available to big-budget marketing brands. You can do it quickly, and more cheaply, through search engine optimization.
Think about the process in more depth. The consumer thinks: “I want some cereal. Which cereal do I like? I like Corn Flakes!”
Now, think about how they buy something that’s sold online: “I want blue plaid shorts. I’ll Google blue plaid shorts.” And what do they find? The first page is ranked #1 because of search engine optimization (and yes, full disclosure: I worked with them on that SEO campaign).
They could have spent far more money on branding their store and injecting themselves into the buyer’s thought process; they could have blanketed New York with flyers, radio ads, and direct mailings; but through SEO, they were able to make a small investment go a long way.
It’s the same trick the big, national brands pull off: slip into the consumer’s consciousness right as they’re getting ready to make the big purchase. But this time, it doesn’t require a massive budget. All it takes is a modest investment and a little patience.
Marketers are always finding ways to get closer to consumers at the Moment of Truth, when they make their purchasing decision. I’d like to suggest that search engine optimization is an essential part of the marketer’s toolkit. For more and more people, “reality” is defined as whatever ranks first on the first search they do—and for those of us who make a living getting things sold, let’s just say that’s GRRRRRREAT!