Why Should You Bid On Your Own Brand Name?

Conventional wisdom says that you shouldn’t bid on your own brand name, but who turns to a convent for marketing advice?  

Ikea delivery to Nashville has been weird for quite some time now. Sometimes, I can get my items shipped directly to my home, sometimes I have to collect them at a FEDEX location, and sometimes I have to pick them up at a kind of scary warehouse. A few months ago, I was assigned a new pickup location: the freight center at the airport. 

I waited for confirmation that my goods had arrived at the airport, and finally got the email I had been waiting for: my order was ready for pickup! I started pulling myself together to make the drive to the airport, and as I was about to walk out the door, I got another email: “Thank you for picking up your order!”


Surely this was a mistake. I called the freight center and found no one picking up the phone. I then called Ikea, and after several rounds of what felt like eternal waiting, I finally got through. The person on the other end of the line confirmed that I had indeed picked up my package, as proven by the fact I signed for it. 

I asked her what the signature said, and she told me it was signed by someone named  “F. DORIS.” 

F. DORIS was given the package sent to Daniel Romero. There was no other name on the order, and F. DORIS made no attempt to even pretend to be me, but somehow they were awarded my order all the same. 

Something about the fact someone could waltz in with a name that only shares half of the unique letters in my name just made the whole ordeal sting even worse. This was an absolute outrage – why did the handlers and F. DORIS not respect that MY NAME was on the package???

No one cared that my name was on the package. Someone else asked for it, and my name’s reservation power was tossed aside like an old rag. But how does this relate to digital advertising? Let’s use F. DORIS to answer an age old marketing question:

Why Pay For A Click You Were Already Going To Get?

Were you really going to get that click? How sure are you? 

As illustrated by F. DORIS, interlopers abound. I can’t tell you how often I see my clients’ competitors bidding on my clients’ brand names, branded products or branded services. And while it’s generally not something I endorse for my clients, on the rare occasion that I run campaigns bidding on their competitors’ brand names, products or services, I’ve seen it work first hand. 

Here’s the deal: Google puts their ads above organic listings for a reason. 58% of Google’s revenue comes from people clicking on search ads, so they have financial motivation to put those ads in the most prominent positions on their results pages. So while an ad from a competitor for your brand name is inherently the “wrong” answer to what a user is searching for, they’re given the spotlight to make their best pitch as to why the searcher should pick them instead of you…often times before the searcher even sees your organic listing. In fact, even if they do see your organic listing, the mere presence of an ad on the SERP results in a 10% decrease in CTRs for organic listings.

Side Note: Basecamp is famously furious over the interplay between paid and organic. It may be wrong, but it’s also just reality. And it usually pays to play the game, and play it as well as you can. 

Decreased Distractions

You wouldn’t let a competitor put a poster up in your front window, so why give them free reign over the SERPs that are supposed to be dedicated to your brand? 

People are easily distracted, and given the opportunity to look at something new, a lot of us can’t help ourselves. I assume that’s why so many men have a picture of their wife as their phone’s lock screen, but that’s a topic for another day. 

By bidding on your own name, you can effectively muffle distractions by helping ensure your searchers are seeing a big, unbreakable wall of your brand. Even then, people can get distracted:

Increased Familiarity

There’s a well known concept in marketing known as the Rule of 7. It’s this basic understanding that people need to be exposed to an advertiser’s pitch 7 times on average before they’re willing to bite.

 While I’m not willing to mark 7 down as the magic number (I think you can get there faster with proper messaging and audience/persona targeting), I do 100% believe additional touch points and an exit ramp from the familiarity stage are crucial in helping convert the unaware into customers. 

While I recommend bidding on their brand name to all my clients, I push even harder in cases where we’re looking to expand audiences. In my experience, people recently exposed to your brand for the first time through video ads, banner ads, or basically any other more passive exposure medium (something where the user wasn’t actively searching for an answer – like billboards) are likely to search for your brand/product when they’re more actively ready to purchase or convert than they are to convert immediately on their initial exposure to the brand. 

By creating branded campaigns that target my clients’ brand names and branded products/services (along with some near-matches I expect someone to come up with, for example copyright attorney vs. trademark attorney), I’m able to establish a curated pathway for these users to “get started” rather than potentially entering the clients’ sites for the first time on some obscure interior page. This brings me to my next point:

More Control Over Your Brand Experience

By bidding on your own name, you have some additional control over how your brand shows up when someone searches for you – and doesn’t that sound like a good thing? 

Bidding on your brand name also gives you an opportunity to hit users with a dedicated summary/pitch to reinforce what you want them to do. Organic visibility is a fickle thing, afterall – you may rank amazingly for a page that doesn’t have the chutzpah to stand on its own as your SERP welcome message, and you never know what Google’s going to pull from your page copy, meta description, whatever to display. It might not be as user friendly as you hoped. 

With ads targeting your brand’s name, you have a much better chance of delivering the message you want your users to see without relying on Google to serve something appropriate on its own.

Better Budget Efficiency?

As referenced earlier, the big complaint against bidding on your own brand is that you’ll pay for clicks/conversions you would have otherwise gotten for free. Well, beyond the arguments made above, there may be more to the story:

According to a study from iProspect called Real Branding Implications of Digital Media, simultaneously ranking in the top positions for both ads and organic for a branded query result in a 73% increase in purchase likelihood on average compared to ranking in the top ad or organic positions alone. 

So What Should You Do?


Look. No one can force you to bid on your own brand. You’re entitled to believe it’s a waste of time and money, but I’m asking that you at least think about what I’ve outlined above before just dismissing the concept outright next time it’s suggested as a viable strategy. Otherwise, I may start bidding on your brand name with an ad linking back to this article.

Dirty Dozen Vol. 1, Full Track List

For our 12th birthday, we started compiling these beastly untruths designed to prevent progress and hinder health. We came up with so many we had to break it into volumes. Here’s the full track list on the first volume in a never-ending series. 

  1. Any young person can manage socials
  2. If you build it, they will come
  3. You have to use Google Analytics
  4. AI is coming for your job
  5. More data, less problems
  6. Email is dead
  7. It didn’t work before, so it can’t work now
  8. Don’t bid on your brand, you’ll get those clicks anyway [YOU ARE HERE]
  9. Your audience demographics are static
  10. Brand strategy doesn’t apply to me
  11. Collection is the same as analysis
  12. I need to make sure “Integrity” is in our core values

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