The Voice of the Underdog®
The more things change, the more they stay the same. That French proverb was popularized by novelist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr back in the 19th century. Little could he have known that an advertising guy would invoke his observation more than a century later to describe the impact digital marketing has had on the need for brand building in the modern era of marketing communications. In fact, the Internet has done nothing to diminish the need for brand building. Creating and maintaining strong brands is just as important today as it was when Karr was penning his novels. In fact, strong brands have an even more distinct advantage over their weaker competitors today given the explosion of media and product and service choices that have come to light in the last 30 years.
Author John Battelle cites a perfect case in point for this in his book, “The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture.”
Battelle tells the story of an entrepreneur named Neil Moncrief who started a Web-based company selling large men’s shoes sizes 13 and up called “2 Big Feet.” As a startup venture, Moncrief’s company had zero brand awareness and he didn’t have the financial resources to change that. Instead, he simply took his chances on the net, and his luck was good. As Battelle describes it, “through some combination of luck, good karma, and what seemed like fair play, when folks punched “big feet” or similar keywords into Google, Neil’s site came up first.” The result was site traffic and big sales for 2 Big Feet. But the Google elves decided, as they are prone to do, to switch up the algorithm that had been the driver of Moncrief’s good fortune. It’s a practice known as the “Google Dance,” and it is the bane of every Internet entrepreneur who relies heavily on Google search for their sustenance. In Moncrief’s case, the algorithm tweak made his site disappear from Google’s search results, causing a breathtaking drop in business.
The example illustrates yet again that the shortest distance between customers and companies is still strong brand recall. How much more effective would it be for a company if, instead of searching terms related to the business, customers actually searched for the company’s name? Or better yet, what if they just typed the company’s Web address into the browser? No doubt, search is vital for many companies—as are other digital strategies and tactics—but wouldn’t Moncrief have fared much better as Google did its dance if his customers simply knew the name of his company and typed it directly into the search engine?
While the resources needed to build strong brands aren’t generally available for small entrepreneurial concerns like 2 Big Feet, larger companies that shift their marketing tactics away from traditional activities aimed at building and sustaining strong brand recall do so at their own long-term peril. Certainly, we wouldn’t call into question the importance of digital communications in the marketing mix. But the Holy Grail of marketing has always been and will remain the creation of a strong brand with equally strong customer preference.
It seems there’s just no getting around the old familiarity, liking and preference model digitally or otherwise.
We challenge underdog brands to think differently. We help them find their voice, and urge them to blaze new trails to make sure they stand out from the pack. Whether you need an agency of record or support on a project, we are here to help you win.