Is a good brand defense the best offense? This is the critical question I probe this morning in an article entitled "Defensive Branding 101 - The Role of Search," which probes whether Search Engine Optimization (SEOs) and other search experts are dedicating enough attention to targeted search advertising against negative search queries. At a time when consumer-generated media (CGM) is unleashing an unprecedented digital trail of negative commentary and opinion that re-circulates to ordinary consumers through search, its surprising that few brands are acquiring "balance the story" shelf-shelf space through targeted search advertising.
Speakers and Seekers: The attached chart underscored the role of search as a CGM targeting vehicle. Vocal consumers with good or bad experiences act as "Speakers." The create vast quantities of indexed content on search engines that find curious "seekers," most of whom are simply ordinary (dare I say "typical") consumers doing straightforward product research. Bad buzz, I write in my article, "spreads not simply because consumers hear about it for the first time, but because initial buzz is solidified by the presence of reinforcing evidence. A quick search on bad buzz, a rumor, even gossipy innuendo can trigger a tipping point in consumer perception."
"A consumer who hears Mazda has warranty issues will immediately seek counsel from Google and type in "Mazda complaints" or "Mazda safety"...This is where SEM (define) misses the mark. It obsesses with acquisition and shrugs defection. Media planners and SEO experts avoid negative inventory like it's the black plague inside a no-fly zone.
Defensive Branding: What's needed is a new form of ad targeting grounded in what I'd call "defensive branding." Under this model, Mazda would consistently have an ad presence in negative search results, always attempting provide deeper context around the issues at hand. If the brand has nothing to contribute, rebut, or challenge, it should clearly avoid this, as this simply risks creating even more consumer cynicism. But in most cases, brands already have content, FAQs, or corporate information addressing to help explain, or wrap perspective, around these issues.