It was none other than Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, who, a couple months ago, called the Internet a “cesspool.” According to AdAge:
The internet is fast becoming a "cesspool" where false information thrives, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said yesterday. Speaking with an audience of magazine executives visiting the Google campus here as part of their annual industry conference, he said their brands were increasingly important signals that content can be trusted.
"Brands are the solution, not the problem," Mr. Schmidt said. "Brands are how you sort out the cesspool."
Schmidt went on to highlight the power of brand in today’s online world, pointing out how people rely on brands to make choices:
Branding, on the other hand, may be an essential element that helps people navigate the world, he said. "Brand affinity is clearly hard wired," he said. "It is so fundamental to human existence that it's not going away. It must have a genetic component."
I don’t know whether brand is a “genetic” component as Schmidt muses. But I do know that brand is what gives consumers and potential customers the feeling they can trust you.
Have you ever visited a website, thought about making a purchase, but then decided against it because something didn’t look right about the website? Perhaps the website was run by some company whose name you never heard of. You suddenly realized you would be giving your credit card information to heaven-only-knows-who. Didn’t seem wise ….
Consider an alternative, Amazon.com. Would you have the same level of hesitation about giving up your credit card information to Amazon? Most likely not. Why? Amazon is a well known brand.
Brand. There’s that word again.
Now, on the one hand all this emphasis on brand may sound like bad news for small businesses, startups and up-and-coming businesses. Aside from the rare small business enjoying wild grassroots success – like Twitter – your business won’t have the brand recognition of larger companies. That may sound like you are at a disadvantage.
But the good news is that the Web is an amazing platform that makes it possible to develop brand recognition much faster than in the offline world.
Online more people can come in contact with your brand. If you intelligently leverage the search engines, blogs, social media, and search advertising to get found easily online, in many places, the cumulative impact over time is to build brand awareness.
It becomes a breeder reactor effect, too. The more brand awareness, the more that people come to your site, the more trust a search engine like Google will place in your business’s website – and the more likely Google may be to separate out your site from the cesspool.
As your brand awareness increases, trust levels among consumers go up. Your business is differentiated in their eyes from the hordes of low quality websites. Memory kicks in, too, and with brand awareness your business will be top of mind. People think of your business and your products or services when it’s time to buy.
Welcome to the cesspool, and the importance of branding to rise above it.