Matt Daniels picked up on a 2007 study from Penn State (that we both missed) about the effect of brand awareness on the evaluation of search engine results [pdf].
Matt sums up the relevant point nicely:
In the study, participants searched for terms on Google, Yahoo, and MSN, but the researchers modified the sites so that identical search results were presented. Participants were asked to rate the accuracy of the search results on each site.
Even though the search results were identical, participants rated Google, Yahoo, and MSN unequally. When searching for “manufacturing home,” they rated Google 50% more precise than MSN and Yahoo.
This a marketer’s dream: consumers rating your product favorably even though its functional performance is identical to competitors.
Matt’s post on the study is a must read.
All I have to add is that you should be cognizant of the effect of branding the next time you read an article about how to spam Twitter, linkbait a blogger, or make yet another boring website. Is the marginal gain in reach worth selling your soul?
Having a brand worth caring about makes better business sense.