I think that article has some good points, but starts froma point that disregards the vast majority of online user experience: i.e. that most users just click search results, irrespective of how vaguely related the snippets and titles are.
IMHO, Branding is not a thing that is done on a SERP, or another site, but also a consequence of generating traffic toa site. That is, if you get 1000 visitors, that is 1000 oportunities to educate people about your brand, and this is far more effective than 1000 views of a banner that people are simply blind to. Traffic should create and enhancing branding efforts, and it is far better having high rankings than SERPs that feature branding over rankings. That is why advertisers advertise on high rating TV shows in preference to producing their own shows that are all highly branded: More eyeballs on your branding is better than more branding and less eyeballs.
They don't realize how much greater click-through and conversion rates would be if their brands were recognized and trusted by that same search audience.
That is the real pearl of wisdom in this article, but the way the writer goes about demonstrating this principal in action is a bit flawed. A lot of the evidence quoted is a bit spurious, and the examples given presented in such a light as to support the article, not to explore the issue. As an example, search traffic may increase after a banner campaign, but does that mean that was where the money was best spent? Would that same money spent on PPC have lead to the exact same increase in brand related search? After all, 1000 people actually seeing a site and all the associated branding may return at a later date, via branded search, if they are to truly interested.
Also, it wasn't just a lack of brand recognition that stopped the writers friend, but differentiation
. If all the companies listed were keyword-keyword-keyword.com, and I was www.BRAND.com, then that may lead to a clickthrough as well.
The article also didn't offer much practical advice on how to do any of this branding or what was required, and left a lot of questions unaswered.
Direct email marketting increases branding? Ok sure, I'll accept that, but in what mix? Are all emails equal? What about the branding effect of generic search traffic? What about the effect of quality design and Usability on branding?
Some good points, a very interesting angle people should be looking at but not a lot ofuseful insight beyond a "makes you think" raising of a topic that for many is new.