Brand Power and Search

I and others have argued that Google’s brand (and related branded user experience) is now substantially carrying the company’s market share leadership. This Penn State study, released and widely written about a couple days ago, appears to confirm that thesis:

Researchers in Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) copied Google results pages from four different e-commerce queries, ascribing them to four different search engines — Google, MSN Live Search, Yahoo! and an in-house engine created for the study. Then the researchers showed the pages to 32 study participants who were asked to evaluate the engines’ performance in returning relevant results.

The queries included “camping Mexico,” “laser removal,” “manufactured home” and “techno music.”

Despite the results pages being identical in content and presentation, participants indicated that Yahoo! and Google outperformed MSN Live Search and the in-house search engine.

“Given that there was no difference in the results, all of the search engines should have had the exact same score,” said Jim Jansen, assistant professor and lead researcher. “Some emotional branding is having an effect here.”

Also, Yahoo! ranked better:

Given that many of the participants said they used Google to search, Jansen said he was surprised that Yahoo! came out on top. Its total scores were 15 percent above the average for the four queries while Google’s total scores were just 0.7 percent above the average.

There’s a good deal more to say about this but it gets at the power of brand in search, which refutes the oft-heard line: “The competition is just a click away.” Not so . . .

Brand affinity is also something that will thwart the ambitions of the Powersets of the world unless the company has a long time horizon (3-5 years to see an impact) and its results and related user experience are truly and visibly better.


3 Responses to “Brand Power and Search”

  1. cohn Says:

    Brand loyalists don’t switch companies and products unless there is significant and compelling emotional and financial reasons to do so.

  2. college Says:

    Brand loyalty is kind of silly. I always buy the best products at reasonable prices.

  3. Jim Says:

    For those interested, here is a link to the full paper.

    Click to access jansen_branding_of_search_engines.pdf

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: