Google's assertion is that search advertising has a "powerful effect on branding" by increasing top-of-mind awareness and unaided brand awareness. This certainly may be true, but only in a limited sense.
- What works best in AdWords copy is probably more detrimental to your brand than it is beneficial.
- There's a big difference between name awareness and brand awareness.
Why Good AdWords Ads Can Actually Hurt Your Brand
While we can't see the inner workings of this algorithm, Google offers an indicator of how relevant and helpful they consider your ads for each keyword you bid on. This indicator is called your "quality score." If your quality score is high, you get a discount. If your quality score is low, not only do you not get a discount, but you might even get a penalty. So advertisers are encouraged to select keywords and write ads that produce a high quality score.
The details of the algorithm are unknown, but we know having a high click-through rate (CTR) increases your quality score, and in doing so reduces the cost of your advertising. This encourages marketers to use words that drive clicks like "Free" and "Discount" and incentives like "Save up to 60%". If your competitors are aggressive in getting searchers to click, then you have to be, too, if you want to keep your advertising costs reasonable. This aggressive copywriting then associates your brand with a price-based offer, with no room to add any more messages to express your market position or other brand attributes.
The Difference Between Name Awareness and Brand Awareness
But there's a lot more to your brand than a name or even a positive sentiment. What does your company stand for? What differentiates you in the marketplace? How do I feel when I use your services? These brand vectors are what drive associations beyond, "I need a widget...Company X sells widgets," to "I need a widget...I should call Company X first because..."