Should You Run Brand Defense Campaigns in Apple Search Ads?

Justin Duckersby 
App Growth Consultant at AppTweak

6 min read

Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned veteran of Apple Search Ads (ASA), you’ve probably heard of the concept of brand defense.

Brand defense consists of bidding on your own brand terms in an attempt to deny competitors’ visibility on these.

Competitors have every interest in bidding on your own brand keywords – given that keywords drive 49% of App Store traffic, account for 97% of keywords with search volumes over 75, and are the main drivers of installs of an app.

Considering this, running a brand defense campaign might seem the right idea to secure the most downloads, right?

However, this decision requires a more nuanced understanding and consideration of various factors.

One such factor is the cost associated with brand defense campaigns.

Unlike other ASA campaigns, determining the true cost of a brand defense campaign necessitates additional calculations due to cannibalization. This occurs when a store visitor installs your app from your ad, which you pay for, even though they might have done so without the ad, at no cost.

If a user considers downloading Microsoft Edge, they might change their mind when they see the ad of a competitor promoting its own unique features
If a user considers downloading Microsoft Edge, they might change their mind when they see the ad of a competitor promoting its own unique features.

Cannibalization will inevitably occur when you run brand defense campaigns, as store visitors are served both your ad and your app’s organic search result, and they might click on any of the two. This means your cost per install will likely be higher than what Apple reports, as it cannot account for cannibalization.

Measuring cannibalization is, however, possible and should be your first step in accurately gauging the cost of your brand defense campaigns.

With this being said, running brand defense campaigns should not necessarily be all about money. Other key factors may influence your choice to run brand defense campaigns or not.

Let’s explore these key considerations that should guide your decision.

Develop your app’s brand image

Advertisement isn’t always about performance and return on investment – it’s also a good way to build your brand image and create consistency.

Branding is key, and you want your brand and its unique selling proposition to stay top of mind for store visitors. As such, running a brand defense campaign can be beneficial in maintaining your brand’s presence, even if it doesn’t produce immediate profit.

Luckily for you, bidding on your own brand terms in Apple Search Ads gives you more room to develop your brand image.

Apple Search Ads Guide

In this guide, find 10 tips to create effective Search Ads campaigns & optimize your bid performance.

Download now

When your ad appears on your brand term, it displays your app’s first 3 screenshots (or the one in landscape mode), with the organic result below showcasing the next 3. This gives you 6 screenshots on the first screen of search results to highlight your brand, with no competition in sight.

With 3 additional screenshots, you have way more room to highlight the unique value proposition and original features of your app
With 3 additional screenshots, you have way more room to highlight the unique value proposition and original features of your app.

Custom product pages (CPPs) come in handy for such cases, allowing you to customize your app page creatives to effectively present your app to interested store visitors.

Run product-aligned brand defense campaigns

Another way to run brand defense campaigns is to align them with your app’s development cycle.

Throughout its lifecycle, an app undergoes numerous phases that often include the release of new features or rebranding campaigns. Store visitors already have a lot of information to digest on a daily basis and may miss certain app updates if not prominently communicated.

In this case, consider launching a temporary brand defense campaign to highlight the new feature, event, or rebranding campaign of your app. This is particularly interesting for returning users, who will have an added incentive to re-download your app when they see that it has added new features since they uninstalled it.

In addition, comparing the performance of these temporary brand defense campaigns can help you better understand which features or events were most successful, or whether your rebranding was well received by the public.

Track post-install metrics

One of the advantages of Apple Search Ads is the ability to monitor post-install metrics. Through integrations with Mobile Measurement Partners (MMPs) like Adjust and AppsFlyer, you can track user behavior after they’ve installed your app.

Metrics like retention rate, app launches, tutorial completion, time spent in-app, etc. can help you better understand how users interact with your app, spot where issues arise that cause churn, and take actions to improve your app as a whole. This level of insight would be impossible without ad-driven installations, and this might justify you running brand defense campaigns.

Increase the cost of your competitors bids

A strategic approach to brand defense involves reacting to aggressive competitor activity on your brand terms.

In such cases, you want to set a low bid on your own brand terms to (hopefully drastically) increase the cost per install of your own brand terms for your competitors.

Apple Search Ads’ bidding process heavily weighs conversion rates. As your app naturally has the highest conversion rate for its own brand terms, competitors would need to increase their bids to outbid you.

Find better bid opportunities

If none of these points convince you to continue your brand defense campaigns, it may be worth exploring other keyword opportunities. These could potentially drive as many (or more) app installs at a lower cost per install.

Understanding cannibalization is crucial here. It isn’t just about calculating the actual return on investment (ROI) of your brand defense campaign. It also helps you to compare the cost per install of your brand keywords versus competitor and generic keywords, allowing you to select those offering the best ROI.

Discover how to select effective keywords to maximize the performance of your ASA campaigns

While the AppTweak platform is very user-friendly and provides great insight into the competitive landscape of the app stores, having the Managed Services with dedicated support has been a great extension to our internal team. Our dedicated partners help provide actionable insights and recommendations based on the data we get from the platform, making this partnership an easy yes and worth renewing year after year.
Mike Reese, Mobile App Manager, The North Face
Mike Reese Mobile App Manager


Brand defense or no brand defense campaign?

Ultimately, the choice will come down to your own company and goals.

However, deciding solely based on the profit a brand defense campaign generates might not be the best approach.

Consider how brand defense campaigns can help achieve non-profit-related goals. If you choose to pause your brand defense campaign due to low ROI, take some time to explore if bidding on other keywords could better align with your ROI goals.

Start free trial

Justin Duckers
by , App Growth Consultant at AppTweak
Justin is an App Growth Consultant at AppTweak, helping apps boost their visibility and downloads. Passionate about sci-fi and fantasy, he spends his free time walking, reading and bouldering.