51 | Brand with Aiden Carroll


This episode covers brand; why it’s important especially in the digital marketing world and SEO within that. 

Aiden Carroll joins me. He is co-founder of The Coloring in Department and has been in the education industry for over 12 years. He enjoys making education fun or as Aiden calls it ‘edu-tainment’. 

Why is Brand Important

Search marketers focus on particular areas and ‘brand’ unifies everyone. It is the core and soul of any company. 

Aiden suggests that those who are currently talking about brand are getting it fundamentally wrong because they’re coming to it from a technical perspective. He would sometimes fight with Jono (as many SEOs do) but Aiden and him are in agreement on brand, that it’s not done well or thoughtfully (in the context of search industry anyway.) 

Brand has implications on ranking factors, HR, recruitment, culture, PR… the list goes on. We can’t talk about it in isolation. We should take the omni-channel approach as brand growth is affecting other areas.  

For example, Ross Tavendale from Type A Media, said that he would see a ‘dampening effect’ on links to a brand if they had bad reviews across the web. Aiden points out that you’re amplifying your bad brand via doing press when you have bad reviews, subjecting others to your see your failures. His analogy is to clean up your house before a party. 

“People will come round but they won’t come back, negativity is more spreadable.” – Aiden Carroll

“Brand is something that has come out of the industry at large – a gap here on practical and strategic level.” – Aiden Carroll

Marie Haynes talks a lot about EAT (Expertise, Authority, Trust.) A huge ranking factor in many SEOs eyes. She often says that you should look at Google’s Rater Guidelines and something that she suggests alongside this is that reviews can play a big role. Improving and building a brand, such as focusing on great customer service can mean a lot for your online visibility. Basically, links no longer mean X, or good content alone either, instead you need a balance and brand sits on top like an umbrella. 

What Metrics to Use for Brand Awareness Campaigns

When brand building, it is always hard to know what metrics to look at. For example, at Amara, SEO pioneered a marketing video at the end of 2018 and saw growth of ‘Amara’ searches by 55% year on year.  Unfortunately, the business didn’t see any last click results or revenue which in brand awareness piece isn’t something you see. This meant the business didn’t do the video in 2019. 

Aiden suggests that you get the fundamentals in place first, full funnel marketing and measurement. What tends to happen is we focus on conversion rates and everything else goes in the bin. All that brands usually do is look at Brand uplift studies on Google but why not map out your customer journey funnels. In the end, you can use metrics that are related to the campaign you’re doing, so if it’s a search focus then use search metrics to determine those KPIs. Remember, all channels have a knock-on effect and so understanding that affect on channels is an attribution game. 

Google is working on attribution more and non-direct click is traditionally used. Data driven model over last click model makes positions based decisions in an automated way. This way you appreciate all channels but also think about tools, processes, people and skills that make the brand grow. Brands forgot that they should be transparent and should be writing content and title tags for humans. 

The way Myers Briggs did testing (an old school method that’s been updated for the modern world) is via matchking a TV advert to audience’s reactions before creating the final piece. This way, you’re able to measure the potential response. 

“We get lost in measuring metrics that are important to us and forget what’s valuable to the customer”- Aiden Carroll

Brand is Emotional

Brand is emotional and associational. Measuring that is like old school advertising (above) but with more tech, which is probably the way forward. 

How long did it take for us to associate Christmas with the Coca Cola trucks advert? Aiden and I talk about how Coke got rid of the trucks and did polar bears for a while but have brought the trucks back after the polar bears were not as good… Anyway, essentially they’ve created videos that are nostalgic, like childhood xmas movies with similar tones and music. Apparently, it took the brand 14/15 years to develop that association. However, in this day and age, you’re now looking at immediate results, especially on video via YouTube for example. You need to continue building that brand, which could take years.  

Another example is John Lewis’s Christmas advert, which has been going for only half a dozen years. It can’t just be social media mentions or clicks to your site; it’s about what the user finds meaningful.

Lack of Investment on Brand Awareness Advertising

Some big brands feel like they’re entitled to their consumer and their wallets, so they don’t feel like they need to do any brand awareness. Others have no budgets or only certain budget, such as PPC or social media advertising. There are a lot of companies that are willfully ignorant of brand and reliance on our agencies to bring the brand to life is strong – there’s an absence of doing this for ourselves. Aiden recommends that you invest in skills and remember what it was like to build a brand; the fundamentals of marketing, just transfer it to the digital age. 

“These days, brands invest in all things digital and forget about core brand values.” – Aiden 

In an environment when start-ups to big brands are going into administration left, right and centre, you need to retain a customer base. If a brand hasn’t adapted with customers, for example Debenhams, it’s because they think they’re too big to fail. The digital age and disruption plays a big role in this too of course. There’s plenty of little startups alongside big competitors. 

Where to Start Building your Brand

Sit down and figure out why you exist. What do you fundamentally do for customers? The worst case scenario here is that you do nothing for them, but essentially you need core values in place, which could be sent via an email from the owner or CEO. Don’t think about it as fonts, colours and designs but the brand; as entity and branding; as the visual representation of that. 

  • What is your brand proposition?
  • Why do you exist?
  • What is the approach to talk to your potential customers? 
  • Why should anyone care?

These are the start of any journey, yet questions that get forgotten the most. Create meaningful interactions and bring it back to your statement of intent.

The Saddleback brand is a great example of a strong identity. They use the message of ‘they’ll fight over it when you’re dead’ in their messaging and meta description to explain that their leather goods will outlast you and still continue to be good quality. It’s showcasing that the next generation will be fighting over having that bag or wallet etc. in one short and sweet sentence. You don’t often find a brand that shows off their personality through traditional SEO areas so this is great! 

Aiden Carroll can be found on Twitter & Linkedin.

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Music credit: I Dunno (Grapes of Wrath Mix) by spinningmerkaba (c) copyright 2017 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/jlbrock44/56346 Ft: Jlang, 4nsic, grapes.

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