Double the Branding for Half the Price

Last week, I focused on your ability to measure the return on investment (ROI) of your online branding. This week’s article is dedicated to a question I bet you struggle with every day: How effective are banner ads in brand building?

Many have speculated about the value of branding banners as opposed to click-through banners. Click-through banners aim to optimize the number of direct responses (clicks); branding banners are primarily intended to increase awareness or convey a message. And, frankly, over the past years, I have had my doubts about the branding effectiveness of any banner ads.

My own response to this doubt has been to examine the branding effectiveness of advertising in discount-offer magazines. How much benefit can a brand derive from being exposed alongside hundreds of other products on the same page? “Very little,” might be the logical response. But is this really the case? There might very well be a reason why major brands pay fortunes to secure minimal exposure in a crowded place. Perhaps the placement really does work!

And here’s the big surprise: It really does work.

A hot-off-the-press study, the first of its kind, reveals the truth behind branded banner ads.’s recent study clearly documents that well-designed branding banner ads can contribute to achieving campaign goals normally associated with click-through banner ads. The study shows that nearly half of the responses were indirect, generated by the branding effect. Since indirect respondents were more likely to return to the destination site than direct respondents, the indirect responses represent higher-quality traffic.

The interesting fact from the study is that over half of this indirect response came to one of the sites within a day of being exposed to the advertisement. Had the campaign been analyzed purely on click-through rate (CTR), or even on post-click conversion rate, the results of the campaign would have been severely underreported. The study concludes that by aggregating the direct and indirect response data, the tested campaigns would have achieved half the cost per acquisition compared with that of direct response only.

So what can we learn from this study? That good advertising, whether it’s offline or online, always works as long as it uses its medium in the best possible way.

And here are a couple of hints for you. Make sure you include a prominent URL on your branded banner ad. This is likely to increase your number of visitors by up to 50 percent! Not everyone is going to click on your site immediately. In fact, up to 50 percent of visitors delay their visit by up to 24 hours. So remind them of your key proposition as soon as they arrive at your site, because they may not remember it as clearly as they would have had they visited the site seconds after being exposed to the banner ad.

Most important, remember that it pays to be creative, to think outside the tradition of banner ads, a plethora of which will be fighting for your potential visitor’s attention by using the same cheap tricks. Blinking, frustrating messages that have become the banner ad cliché often create more bad will than good.

Good branding is, as always, about effective and creative communication, a fact I stress in “Brand Building on the Internet.” So remember: It is possible to achieve double branding for half the price — as long as you’re doubly as creative as your competitors. Since effective and creative communication is a rare phenomenon on the Internet these days, being doubly creative shouldn’t be too difficult.

Don’t click away. Next week, I’ll reveal another fact about online branding. I bet it will surprise you, too.

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