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Are Branded Search Campaigns Incremental or Not?

Both of these are measurements of branded keyword campaigns, for the same customer, just in different countries. While the first measurement is showing very nice incremental results, the second one is showing complete redundant ad spend.


The difference between the markets is the level of competition this customer has, and the saturation within the market. 

While the first measurement is showing the results of a brand keyword campaign in a smaller market – what we’re able to see was significant incrementality.

The second measurement is showing the results of a branded keyword budget increase in a mature market, where what we can see is no incrementality. In other words, the customer might as well have not spent this amount of money as the campaign yielded no value).

The following measurements are also from the same customer (just a different customer). Both measurements were for campaigns running on Google paid search.

Measurement A

Measuring Branded Keyword Campaigns Becomes Less Suprising 

Measurement B

This client is an eLearning customer in a highly competitive landscape of online language learning. Given the nature of their space – brand keywords are used both as a defendable strategy, as well as a “safety” net to make sure that users searching for their brand don’t end up clicking a competitor link.

While both brand and non-brand campaigns yield incremental results – brand keyword campaigns are almost naturally capped by the amount of brand keyword searches. Given that this customer’s brand name is not generic, the volume of searches is not extremely high, causing branded keywords campaigns to represent less than 2% of this customer’s spend, while advertising across non-branded search traffic has almost no upper limit in terms of potential volumes. 

Measurement A was showing the incremental value of a random campaign, running on Apple Search Ads. This specific campaign was not yielding incremental performance, causing the spend increase to reveal that the campaign was practically redundant. 


The second measurement was yielding incremental results. This was a brand keyword campaign, also running on Apple Search Ads. While it’s not really our role to explain why this campaign specifically had been generating incremental results (and good results…), what we identified with the customer was that given the competitiveness of their category, bidding on their own brand keywords was a defendable strategy, and even if we all agree that the low cost per install is mostly a result of intent – the fact that the installs were incremental made it worthwhile. 

Measuring Branded Keyword Campaigns Continues Surprising Us

The following measurements are both from the same customer (different customer from the previous example). 

Measurement A

Measurement B

The following measurements are both from the same customer. 

Measuring Branded Keyword Campaigns Suprised Us

Measurement A

Measurement B

We probably get asked this question over a dozen times per week. The question is asked in almost every demo session we do of our platform, by both marketers, and data scientists who want a clear answer 

This article contains multiple measurements of actual brand keyword campaigns, allowing you to answer the old question: Are branded search campaigns incremental or do they cannibalize organic results. 

As individuals with many years of experience in marketing technology, we had some biased opinions:


“Brand keyword campaigns are cannibalizing organic traffic.”

The logic is sound – users already have an intent, searching specifically for your brand.   They would have -very likely- become your customers already. Branded keyword clicks are more coincidental than intentional.


“Brand keyword campaigns performance is 100% aligned with overall marketing performance.” 

The chicken and the egg problem. If your marketing performance goes well, more people search for your brand, and if you are running branded keyword campaigns, more people will click the branded keyword ads, causing you to attribute more sales to your branded keyword campaigns.


But being confronted by macro level statistics had us question our own biased opinions. If search as an ad type represents 40% of global digital ad spend, assuming at least 5-10% of this is branded keyword campaigns, we doubt that all of this spend is coincidental. We also acknowledged the growth of Apple Search Ads as a channel. This is a paid media channel that is literally targeting users within the same store companies are using to promote their own product, yet Apple Search Ads has been growing exponentially from nothing to over $5bn of revenues in four years. Such growth doesn’t just happen without yielding incremental results for advertisers.

Going back to the original question: Are Branded Search Campaigns Incremental ?

They can be, but they can also not be incremental.

The underlying causes for branded keywords campaigns being incremental is the larger context – how competitive is the sector the advertiser operates in, and how mature their brand is within a market. 

Branded keyword campaigns can yield incremental results at a low CPA given the intentional nature of the targeted campaigns.


If you want to learn more about causal measurement without the need to run any experiments, feel free to schedule a demo with us and we would love to show you our methodology for measurement.



INCRMNTAL is an incrementality measurement platform, providing marketers with a 360 measurement tool for all of their marketing activities. The platform does not require any user-level data, and operates in an always-on setup without any need for experiments or holdouts.

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