A Shove and a Lift: Everyone’s Talking About Branding

Let’s face it: We’ve all been beating a dead horse with the great click-through debate. I won’t preach to the choir here (but I will mix some metaphors). Since my last article, I have received several emails from buyers and sellers. The common thread was this question: “How will online media evolve?” This issue has drawn more attention to and put pressure on branding.

Ask five people to define branding, and you’ll most likely get five different answers. Better yet, ask five people to define branding online… well, you know the drill. So what does branding online mean to you?

Brand is not a last resort. Brand is essential to a company’s online presence: At a recent Harvard Business Review conference, industry leaders were asked the question, “Is brand all we have left?”

Forrester predicts that by 2005, early adopters will spend almost a quarter of their total advertising budgets online. This would account for 9.5 percent of total ad spending, or $42 billion dollars.

According to a recent Morgan Stanley study, banner ads were more effective at generating brand interest than ads on TV or in newspapers or magazines. Consumers show a 27 percent greater ability to recall a brand after seeing an ad online.

The challenge still remains: how to “sell” branding online to implement and execute a successful campaign. Once again we swim in a sea of sticky metrics. How can we measure return on investment (ROI)?

Although many are branding online, few are tracking it. In a Jupiter survey, only 15 percent of marketers said that they are conducting formal online branding measurement. Analysts suggest that marketers can measure branding value by correlating behavioral data (including user click-streams, repeated surfing patterns, and aggregate user behavior) with the flights of specific ads.

Cyber Dialogue findings yield a glimmer of hope: Over one-third (36 percent) of online U.S. adult Internet users have changed their minds about offline purchasing decisions based on online advertising and/or online information.

These are 10 things I’ve learned in regard to branding online:

  1. Online advertising works. 
  2. Online advertising is measured in the wrong way. 
  3. Evaluating multiple metrics yields a higher ROI. 
  4. Online and offline media strategies, creative messaging, and key metrics must align to achieve success. 
  5. Third-party ad serving and site activity reports cannot be standalone. 
  6. Log file analysis, data from other online initiatives (e.g., affiliate marketing, search engine optimization, etc.) should be married with ad activity data and key findings. 
  7. The use of multiple ad units only enhances a media buy. 
  8. Advertisers should partner with companies such as DynamicLogic to help you survey and measure the impact of your efforts. 
  9. Because your brand is strong offline, don’t assume it will be so online. 
  10. Online advertising raises brand awareness.

AdKnowledge found that 32 percent of a site’s conversions come from users who viewed an ad and did not click on it. Multiple exposures to an ad will increase brand awareness.

Before you execute your next media buy, tap into the knowledge of your sales reps. Be clear when you discuss the communication challenges of the campaign. Ask if they’ve encountered similar hurdles. Request user studies and traffic reports. Don’t treat inventory like a can of peas on the shelf at the supermarket. Work with your rep to develop unique sponsorship opportunities.

As you are in the midst of planning, think about campaign-tracking goals. You may want to consider the following:

  • Do the ads impact the consumer’s next opportunity to buy? 
  • Do the ads help build key perceptions of the brand? 
  • Do the ads enhance the brand’s relationship with the customer? 
  • Do the ads complement and integrate with offline advertising messages?

For me, the key to branding success has been tapping into peers, analysts, and information. My counterparts seem to share a similar belief: Online advertising is not dead, it’s just broken. Write to me, share your insights and challenges, and help me mend the wounds.

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