_CULTURE SOCIETY Branding

_What’s in a Name (Brand)?

The relationship between internet search results and a brand’s success is more complex than common wisdom suggests.

_Elea McDonnell Feit

Feit is an assistant professor of marketing in the LeBow College of Business.

It’s long been believed in the advertising world that the number of times a brand’s name is used in internet searches can predict sales for that brand. But new research from Drexel University, Brigham Young University and Google shows there is a lot more to consider when looking at the large number of search queries that include brand names.

By studying more than 1,500 Google users who opted in to have their searches related to smartphones and cars tracked for eight weeks, then linking the information to a traditional brand attitude survey, the researchers came away with findings that could be vital to marketers.

“This research adds to the mounting evidence that we can track brands more passively using new data sources like brand search.”

—Elea McDonnell Feit

“Marketers have long used brand attitude surveys to monitor brand health, but surveys are expensive and fewer and fewer people want to answer them,” says Elea McDonnell Feit, an assistant professor of marketing in the LeBow College of Business. “This research adds to the mounting evidence that we can track brands more passively using new data sources like brand search.”

The study found that users who are actively shopping in a category are more likely to search for any brand. However, as users move from being aware of a brand to intending to purchase a brand, they are increasingly more likely to search for that brand — with the greatest gains as customers go from recognition to familiarity and from familiarity to consideration. For example, someone who is just beginning to consider purchasing a car is more likely to start with a general search that does not include any brands. As the consumer narrows their decision before a purchase, they will start searching for a specific brand.

The researchers also found that users who own and use a particular car or smartphone are much more likely to search for that brand, even when they are not actively shopping. This suggests that a substantial volume of brand search in these categories is not related to shopping at all — something marketers should keep in mind if they see a sudden spike in search traffic for their brand.