Branding Dot-Com

After being barraged with radio, TV and print ads for Internet companies during the Super Bowl and over the holidays, you may wonder who won the awareness and branding wars. The answer is obvious: dot-com. Not any specific company. Just dot-com.

Based on figures tracked by Competitive Media Reporting, it’s estimated that Internet companies may have spent a billion dollars on advertising in the final quarter of 1999.

The results of that spending spree? Surveys done by Active Research showed that 25 percent of adults asked could not recall a single dot-com holiday ad. No more than one percent of viewers remembered any specific ad at all, unless the advertiser was an already well-known name like Yahoo or Amazon.

These conclusions do not bode well for all the me-toos that dropped more than two million dollars for a minute or less of fame on the Super Bowl, such as OnMoney.com, LifeMinders.com, AutoTrader.com, OurBeginning.com, and Computer.com. (Money that these firms spent on Super Bowl ads alone would be enough to very nicely fund a truly creative, leading-edge start-up.)

The one thing most people are likely to remember from the numbing parade of similar commercials is the two-syllable phrase in every ad: dot-com.

That might be a small part of the reason why some Internet companies are starting to drop dot-com from their names altogether. For example, Seattle-based Encoding.com recently became Loudeye. Besides, once a company has made it, no one seems to say the dot-com part anymore, anyway. Think of Amazon. E*Trade. Ebay.

So aside from the advertising media, who’s the biggest beneficiary of this constant hammering of dot-com ads? I suspect it’s Network Solutions. They’re the company that issues most dot-com addresses and calls themselves “the dot com people.” They couldn’t have asked for a better awareness campaign, paid for by everybody else.

Internet firms may discover that counting on dot-com to build a brand may inadvertently result in a brand they burn into themselves without anesthesia.

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