There’s plenty of evidence demonstrating the Web can be an effective branding tool. More recently, evidence has emerged that the Internet is a cost-effective way for marketers to build their brands when measured as part of a cross-media campaign.
This type of information should erode skepticism regarding online marketing. But many major marketers are one step ahead of asking whether the Internet should be a part of their integrated marketing campaigns. They’ve already seen the Web can work. Now they’re asking: What role should it play?
This is not only a good question, it’s the ultimate one. As I wrote in my last column, smart Web advocates no longer focus on trying to take dollars away from TV and other offline media. Rather, they help clients learn how the Web can complement offline media and play an important role in an integrated marketing strategy.
Smart marketers now explore how they can leverage the Web’s strengths to meet their specific objectives. Every campaign is different, but here are ways advertisers have used the Web as part of an integrated media effort:
- Extending reach. Many argue that because some people don’t have access to the Internet, it’s not an effective tool for mass-reach campaigns. Not everyone watches TV, either. Getting close to maximum reach on TV can cost a fortune. Some audiences, particularly the most affluent (and time-starved) consumers, may be more reachable online. A recent study on the at-work audience drives this point home.
- Maximizing effectiveness. Much has been made of “360-degree marketing” and like concepts advocating reaching your target through multiple touch points. Hackneyed as the concepts may be, it’s perfectly logical that exposing people to your message through multiple media can increase the likelihood they will receive, retain, and believe your message. Marketers who are serious about branding should find a way to put the Web into the mix.
- Using interactivity. In many ways, online advertising is closer to print advertising than to TV. Though neither print nor online has proven to be as powerful as TV in evoking an emotional response, both can present information in a compelling way. The Web’s major advantage over print is offering consumers the ability to choose what information they need, then deliver that information as part of an experience that can be more stimulating than a static ad. Not everyone will want to interact with an advertiser’s message. It’s probably worth offering the opportunity to those who do.
- Leveraging online relationships. Whether it’s a mini-site about relationships on iVillage or a fantasy football game on ESPN, people become very involved in online content. Communities and content online are prime places for advertisers to deliver targeted messages that link to experiences people value. Tying a message to a concept or experience through an online sponsorship can be a highly effective way to build key attributes of a brand — even if online ads don’t quite have the power to make someone shed a tear.
We still have a lot to learn about the best uses of the Web. As the Web evolves, its power to create compelling experiences will grow. Marketers who learn how to use the Web as a media tool will have significant competitive advantage over those who ignore the medium’s possibilities.