A common SEM question I get is "why should I bid on brand keywords? Isn't this a waste of money as they'll just click my top-ranked organic search result if my ad wasn't there?"
That line of thinking is not false - you may be paying for clicks you would have otherwise received for free if someone clicked your organic search result - but if you stop bidding on brand keywords you are leaving more money on the table than what you save. Here's why:
Google allows advertisers to show their ads above a brand's official website, even when people specifically search for that brand. If you don't run ads on branded keywords, your competitors' ads would show up at the top of your official website instead.
You can check what advertisers are running ads against your brand name by opening your brand campaign in Google Ads and pulling up the Auction Insights report.
Even if you rank #1 organically, do you rank #2? #3, 4, and 5? Your competitor may have a comparison page ranking there or there may be negative news of your brand. By buying the top of page real estate, you're pushing all those other search results further down. Off screen, out of mind.
Here's a good example: even though multiple kids have died after it fell on them, IKEA still sells its MALM dresser (with more disclaimers about attaching it to a wall). Buying the ad spot for this keyword would push down the negative news.
We also don't want people getting distracted by going down the rabbit hole of clicking through the "People also ask" infinite accordion either.
By having the branded ad you control the experience more.
Most sites rank well for their standalone brand name, but for long tail brand keywords they may not. These then become lost opportunities if others rank there and you lose a visitor and a sale.
Test your ranking coverage for all your brand keywords by going to keywordtool.io and typing your brand name. Copy all the keywords returned and do a rank check on them. You may be surprised to see what branded keywords you don't rank for.
If you're having a flash sale or want to draw attention to a new product launch, you can change the copy in your ad much faster than your organic search result, and use ad extensions to stand out.
An analogy would be the point-of-purchase displays that brands buy next to their products on store shelves. While they don't need it as their products are on the shelves anyway, they buy it because it allows them to stand out and control the message to boost sales.
The journey people take before they purchase is multi-step. The behavior in each of those steps we can learn from and adjust our ad's message next time they search for you. For example, we can show a different discount to people who abandon their carts, remove ad copy about discounts altogether if the person is known to buy full price, or show gender-specific messaging about new arrivals if the person's shopping gender intent is known.
Organic search results cannot be differentiated based on whether someone has visited before or not.
And don't forget that bidding on brand keywords is cheap. The added value that comes from keeping branded keywords on far outweighs the additional spend.