In the world of paid digital marketing there are various components that determine whether your efforts are successful or not. But within the technical complexities of account structure, campaign optimization, conversion tracking, and audience targeting (amongst many others) lies an important detail that many advertisers—regardless of expertise—often neglect. That detail is branding.
Many advertisers direct a majority of their focus on the individual promotions themselves and the results they want to drive from them. Much less of this energy is spent on the impact and representation of their brand within all of this. And this is where the problem lies.
Filling the top of your marketing funnel with leads and site traffic may appear to be progress on paper, but if the leads and traffic you are driving don't have a concise recognition of who it is that they’re engaging with, you may be wasting a lot of time and resources. So in this post, I will explain why you need to focus on your brand and how to use it to improve your paid strategy. We'll cover:
- The long-term benefits of incorporating branding into your advertising.
- Examples of businesses doing this right
- Ways you can incorporate your branding into your advertsing.
The consequences of advertising without branding
As mentioned, the popular approach to running paid ads is oftentimes focusing solely on producing the desired result no matter what—whether that be a click, form submission, or video view. This guerilla-esque strategy drives marketers and business owners to sacrifice their own brand consistency in favor of something that yields a quick win within their goal parameters.
But this narrow thinking can cause problems down the line, particularly when the individuals submitting forms or arriving at landing pages have no idea of your business and what it does, or have failed to retain that memory over time.
The internet is a realm of reward system feedback loops and subliminal stimulus triggers. The brain processes images and words at lightning speed and determines which information has value—whether that value is the satisfaction of fulfilling curiosity or something more direct like a cheese pizza. This is why click-bait exists.
But these “hacks” are oftentimes merely shortcuts to superflous results. When attempting to realistically grow your business through advertising, it's important that you drive the results you want while simultaneously leveraging your brand to leave a lasting impression on the user.
The benefit of aligning branding and advertising
It’s critical to have brand recognition and retention at all steps in the process of advertising. If the people you are marketing to have no familiarity with your brand, then to achieve this, your ads and landing pages will always need to speak to your core brand value proposition in addition to the value of the specific product or service being offered.
But as your company’s brand recognition grows and flourishes, the need to drive that core brand value proposition home through every ad campaign becomes less important—which is a good thing because that proposition can often become complex, ambiguous, or implied over time. Let’s use the extremely broad example of Coca-Cola.
Rather beautiful for a company that has aided in tooth decay and the early onset of diabetes for decades, but I digress. Keep in mind that Coca-Cola owns a countless number of other companies at this point, aiding in the complexity of creating one inspiring mission statement. The point is, because they have built up such strong brand awareness and recognition, Coca-Cola doesn't need to explicitly state their brand messaging through their mission statement. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t continue express that brand messaging through their ads:
Consistent color schemes, imagery, and tone account for instantaneous recognition from a user observing their content. This ad plays on one of Coca-Cola’s biggest brand value propositions: nostalgia. These subtle details fill in a variety of gaps of information already stored in the customer’s brain associated with the Coca-Cola brand. This allows for the individual to draw upon related information instantly in their mind without having to do any heavy cognitive lifting. This is the power of a strong brand.
This allows for the individual to draw upon related information instantly in their mind without having to do any heavy cognitive lifting. This is the power of a strong brand.
Branding and advertising alignment for small businesses
Although a massive company that has had decades of success marketing carbonated sugar water surely won’t have any issues with brand recognition, smaller, more nuanced businesses will. The B2B tech space, for example, is swimming with companies that choose to neglect the existence of vowels in their names. When potential prospects in this space are inundated with the plethora of B2B tools that will supposedly make their lives easier, the brands will all start to blend together. This same reality rings true for many other industries as businesses compete for digital attention.
In these cases, a strong brand will set you above the crowd of overly technical or feature-based propositions. A great example of this is the Boston-based tech company Drift. Drift’s platform allows companies to do a variety of sales and marketing-related activities that all inherently carry their own respective value propositions. However, they’re branding is broad enough to be digestible but specific enough to clearly hit home with their target audience:
Their product was once primarily focused around the “conversational marketing” aspect of their chatbots but now you can see the reuse and repetition of the words “revenue” and “acceleration.”
There is a clear effort on Drift’s part to rebrand, in a sense, away from the over-saturated chatbot market (one that they stand on top of) to convey that their product has much more to offer. It may not seem like a massive change but this messaging is carried throughout their site. The foundational function of their business is still conversational marketing but the point of the matter is that their brand story encompasses all aspects of their platform and uses repetition throughout their digital properties to make “revenue acceleration” synonymous with their product perception. As I will explain, consistency is key.
How small businesses can use branding to improve advertising success
It's clear that big or small, brick-and-mortar or ecommerce, businesses must always incorporate branding into their advertising strategy for sustained growth. Below are some tips and guidelines for doing so.
When speaking with clients about branding, one of the most important points that I try to drive home is that of “brand consistency.” This means ensuring that your landing pages and ads use the same language, tone, and color palette as the rest of your site. This may not seem like an important aspect but it's not unlikely that individuals will research your business either before or after they convert on the ads that you set before them.
For example, let’s say someone clicks through on a Coca-Cola ad and they are directed to a page with McDonalds colors, font, and tone. That individual will certainly be confused, believing that they clicked on the wrong link. The same goes for your business in a more subtle way. The impression left by your landing page may not be drawn upon in their memory bank when subsequently visiting your site. You want everything to be consistent in order to enforce familiarity.
Express the goal of the ad through the voice of your brand
Establishing a consistent and persuasive brand on your website will make incorporating these aspects into your advertising much easier. Focusing on the goal of your advertising should always be your first concern, but reinforcing your company identity should be a close second. One way to kill two birds with one stone is to structure your ad copy in a way that addresses the goal of the ad through the voice of your brand.
One way to kill two birds with one stone is to structure your ad copy in a way that addresses the goal of the ad through the voice of your brand
Let’s break down an example of this:
Toast effectively blends both their core brand messaging and functional messaging into this paid search ad. Highlighted in green is the functional messaging of the ad with the branding in red.
- “Adapt Fast w/ Online Ordering” and “Contactless Delivery” are the functional value propositions that entice the user to click through on the ad.
- “All-in-1 Restaurant POS” and “One Platform to Power Your Restaurant” are the brand reinforcements.
Slogans are an effective way to build a brand because it takes the overarching complexity of a business (or ideology in today’s day and age) and simplifies it into a digestible sound bite. As mentioned before with the Coca-Cola example, this simplified information is stored and recalled upon by the consumer’s brain when interacting with the brand. People who are familiar with Toast can easily construct a mental image when reading these words. The same methodology can be applied to the paid social advertising side as well:
Toast reinforces its identity as the all-in-one restaurant POS system with “Built for Restaurants.” The imagery includes their POS systems themselves as well as their logo. The supporting copy speaks to the functional value proposition of the product, giving users a reason to click through.
Employ a consistent landing page design
Continuing with the Toast example, you can see how their website and landing page echoes the sentiment in the ad:
This messaging can be found across their digital territories, reinforcing their place as the “all-in-one” solution for restaurants. There are a number of point-of-sale systems available for businesses, but Toast focuses solely on restaurants. This is their brand. You can see the repeated use of the term restaurants in almost all of their copy:
Pay attention to branding elements when advertising
Branding has many components that could have their own separate posts entirely. To keep things simple, I’ll break it down to its simplest foundations. If you don’t feel like your business has a strong identity, you can get started with these:
What color scheme do you feel conveys what your business is about. This may seem silly to some of the more analytical types but colors in themselves can trigger emotions. Branding is all about consistency and repetition. Color schemes become synonymous with brands and feelings, hence why so many companies will rebrand using different colors and logos if their previous combination was tarnished by a scandal or something negative.
Take everything that your business does and does well and try to condense this into a digestible and memorable combination of words. Slogans are powerful for conveying your unique value proposition, and you can always build off of them with supporting copy so you don’t feel like you have to cram too much into one sentence.
The key to creating a brand is to reinforce an identity through repetition and consistency. As I have mentioned, the more times that individuals are exposed to your same message, color scheme, logo, etc., the more familiar and memorable you become.
Advertise with brand in mind for long-term results
Paid search ads are composed entirely of words, while display and social consist of both words and images. My suggestion is to pay close attention to how you are writing your ads and how you are representing your business through the imagery that you are using. You are better off with an ad whose message and imagery aligns with your business’s identity than one that is hyper-focused on the short term result that the user may be looking for. You should be aiming for a brand-laced ad that accomplishes both rather than a call-to-action-focused ad that only drives graphs in positive directions.