The Buddy System: A Multi-Brand Digital Marketing Approach

March 29, 2018

In a digital world where brand presence is key, controlling Google search results is important.

Brands regularly fight to maintain above-the-fold positions on highly competitive non-brand search results. Showing up in position one on a core non-brand term for the business/vertical the advertiser is in can be the difference between growing/maintaining a successful brand in a competitive space and risking falling victim to those that are able to do it better and more efficiently. Many advertisers spend a lot of time — and money — trying to figure out what works best for their brand and how to take advantage of as much real estate as possible when it counts.

There are some brands that are lucky enough to share space in their vertical with a sister brand, whether through an acquisition or re-alignment internally that produced two brands. Those that are fortunate enough to have multiple brands in the same space can take advantage of building SERP dominance through a multi-brand bidding approach: the Buddy System.

The Buddy System can help brands dominate spaces that are essential for business growth. Several clients that I’ve had the opportunity to work with have gone down this path. This can be a terrific way to increase awareness of a smaller brand, push pesky competitors down the SERP that are trying to usurp an industry leader’s top position or assist in conquesting an area that is important to the brands’ business. This system, in general, has been effectively used for larger brands that have brand capital and are either leveraging it to assist a new brand or are pushing for overall dominance in the space. It’s important when using the Buddy System to be able to look at multiple brands in aggregate. Items sold or leads generated need to be observed in aggregate between the two brands because they’re assisting each other capture the majority of space in the search results. Brand B may be spending more to push down a competitor while receiving less leads. Their portion of user acquisition shouldn’t be looked at alone, as their primary responsibility is to push down competitors and ensure users are focusing only on their company’s brands (Brand A and/or B.)

Positional Conquesting

There are two general paths to go down in these scenarios with the Buddy System, the first being positional conquesting. This is when brands come together to take over a space and refuse to let their competitors in. It can be an effective way of building up brand recognition or ensuring the company maintains its stronghold of the space. The second path, target bidding, may not grab headlines during a strategic meeting, but it has its place, particularly with budget-minded companies.

Positional conquesting works well with a positional bidding strategy. Each brand has its own AdWords account and can therefore bid on the same terms. Brand A, usually the larger brand, will take its position at the top and Brand B, usually the newer or lesser known brand, will take its position just below. There is an art form to getting this correct without increasing your overall CPCs too much and creating too much competition. This strategy will inherently increase CPCs, impression shares, overall volume of impressions, clicks, spend and conversions, as well as CPLs across all your brands to some degree. You aren’t bidding for efficiency in this strategy, but strictly to take up as much of the SERP as possible.

Target Bidding

Target bidding also works well with a bid strategy. Each brand has its own goal that it’s willing to pay for an effective lead. They each bid independently from one another and bid towards their target goal. This system will have a lesser effect on CPCs, as competition from each other will be minimized by reduced bids to keep the effective target within range. This, too, becomes an art form, as volume can drop in both accounts if the strategies aren’t leveraged correctly. Impression share can decrease along with volume. However, in aggregate, there should be more overall leads being funneled in together at an efficient rate. If a brand is too close to the edge of visibility (a lesser-known brand usually showing up in position three or four), this strategy can potentially knock them out if not utilized correctly.

The preferred method always depends on the brand and goals of the account. It’s extremely important before implementing the Buddy System that all parties involved understand that this is a strategy that needs to be looked at in aggregate, particularly when dealing with positional conquesting. If all parties are aligned, the buddy system can be an extremely effective way of utilizing a multi-brand approach to your digital marketing.

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