Drive-Through Branding

Everyone agrees. “Things are different now.”

Throughout the dot-com bust, the tragedy of September 11, the U.S. at war, and all the dirt about the Enrons, Andersens, and WorldComs, we’ve been riding a roller coaster. Most of us have managed to keep our hands and arms inside the ride while holding on for dear life.

There’s no doubt we’re in an uncertain environment. As advertisers, we watch consumer confidence levels as closely as the stock market. We’re in a fast shift. Like a caffeine rush from a super-sized soda, the fast buzz of branding is the talk these days. Slow-growth markets spawn hyperspeed branding.

According to a recent strategy + business article:

The need for cost-effective brand building has never been greater. There are two ways to improve the ROI of brand marketing: Create brand building programs so differentiated and efficient that they boost awareness, purchase intent and ultimately sales and market share; or increase synergies and impact among the firm’s individual brand-building programs so the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Branding is no longer another “Big Idea.” Is this good for ad agencies? I wholeheartedly believe it is. Agencies are all about brand. Agency folk realize there are several obstacles to creating cost-effective brands in today’s economic environment:

  • Clutter. The media environment is fragmented. Broadcast and satellite channels are popping up all over the place. New sites appear online every day.

  • Integration. Clients who use multiple agencies make it hard to synergize creative, messaging, and media vehicles.
  • News/information. Consumers don’t want advertising to get in the way of news and information.
  • Time. Life is moving at warp speed. It’s hard to keep up with the effects of the economy, the surge of technology, and the downsizing of many businesses.

When building brands online, the Internet cannot be considered “just another medium.” I work at a full-service agency. My team is housed within a traditional media department. Media is our mantra. Daily, “online media” translates to “just another medium.”

If branding on the Web is perceived as separate, it will look and feel separate. It’s critical to consider online branding as a part of an overall brand-building strategy. How can this be done? Whether you’re working on the client or agency side or in sales, start by asking a few questions:

  • Can the Internet be a foundation for building this brand?

  • How important is the use of the Web site?
  • Will creative messages translate well online?
  • What additional elements are needed to create synergies online?
  • When planning online media, do the considered sites have content analogous to the brand?
  • Will the desired online experience be perceived as positive from a perception and awareness standpoint?

The Internet can support offline initiatives and promotions: “Log on to WZZZ’s Web site and enter today’s morning drive time code for a chance to win free tickets for a big concert this weekend.”

It can be used to create online buzz to launch an offline product: “Hey, mobile phone user, click here to hear new ring tones coming out for your phone.”

The Internet can be used to enhance user experience and cut printing costs: After subscribing to a broadcast service, users can go online to learn how to navigate the network, order movies, create guides, and the like.

No matter how you slice it, online media can help create, build, amplify, and energize brands.

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