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Branding in a World Where There is No Free Lunch

Rich Barton (Zillow’s chairman) wrote an article every entrepreneur should read: The New Age of Marketing (Don Draper is making a comeback).

The Don Draper mention is timely for me, given I’ve recently gotten addicted to Mad Men (which I’m sure many of you reading have already watched). Don Draper is the creative genius behind the ad agency Sterling Cooper and later at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.

Eyes on brand, and capturing someone’s attention and imagination. That’s the name of the game.

There’s no more free lunch, or even snacks, in terms of user acquisition. You used to be able to throw up a website, optimize for SEO, build a few backlinks — and get traffic.

No longer.

Whenever I hear a startup tell me their user acquisition strategy is SEO, I have a hard time not laughing. That ship sailed at least 5 years ago.

There’s now a user acquisition tax. Today’s world is one in which established behemoths have a significant advantage. Their existing business allows them to pay to play in a way an early stage startup can’t.

(It’s no secret a huge percentage of VC investments are allocated to marketing)

How are you hacking your marketing plan? What’s your distribution strategy? How is your product truly different? Why should someone pay attention to you?

As one small example of a scrappy approach, I noticed this Medium article a couple weeks ago. It’s a company competing against OpenTable, who put up to poke fun at how ancient their competitor’s technology was. After getting a cease and desist, they’ve since put up It’s certainly lacking on the execution side, but it shows there are at least a few creative juices flowing inside the company to try something.

How are you getting eyes on brand in 2017?

[Photo via Wikipedia]

About Drew Meyers

Founder of Geek Estate Blog / Geek Estate Labs. Zillow Alum. Travel addict & co-founder of Horizon. Social entrepreneurship & microfinance advocate. Fan of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Kiva.

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  • Ryan Gullett

    How important do you think websites (proper SEO, backlinks, etc) are to remain in your marketing funnel? How much of a reduction(in the budget) have you given to websites over the last 5 years?

    • I’m not saying abandon SEO. That would be a mistake. We’re absolutely investing in SEO for 360modern, because we’re playing the long game — but we know it’s not going to pay any bills for us anytime soon.

      An equal investment in seo 5 years ago, and now — will pay significantly less dividends than previously.

      What else are you budgeting for? You mean websites compared to prioritizing apps, ad spend, etc?

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