How Does Your Brand Measure Up Online?

A few years ago, there was a healthy debate among Web marketing experts and conversion specialists over whether branding should be considered a legitimate online objective. At the time, most Web site objectives fit neatly into four site types: e-commerce, lead generation, content/media, and customer self-service.

Today, that debate is over. Branding has clearly emerged as a primary goal and a significant area of marketing investment for leading retailers, consumer brands, and other organizations seeking to gain greater mindshare of their target audiences and enhance their Web sites’ customer experience.

Branding Gains Momentum Online

In an October 2005 PointRoll survey, 42 percent of marketers and creative professionals said branding was the most important goal of their online campaigns. Only 18 percent had driving an immediate sale as their most important goal.

Branding is gaining momentum, thanks to three key drivers:

  • More online time. Consumers now spend over a third of their media time online, according to Forrester Research, equivalent to the amount of time they spend watching TV. As the traditional :60 TV spot format comes under attack, aggressive projections have emerged on the trend toward increasing online ad spend as companies embrace the Web as the hub of their marketing strategies.
  • Broadband growth. Eighty-four percent of U.S. households will have broadband access by 2008, according to eMarketer. This opens up the pipe for marketers to develop video, music, and other unique branded content to reach the masses in more personalized, entertaining ways.
  • Effective branding medium. In May 2005, Forrester Research surveyed marketing executives for its “Online Marketing Forecast: 2005 To 2010.” Sixty-six percent of respondents said the Web is as effective as or more effective than traditional offline media.

Search Unveils Insight Into Brand Preferences

How popular is the Apple iPod brand online? The term “iPod” was searched for more than 1.9 million times in January alone, five times more than “mp3 player,” according to Yahoo Search Marketing.

Too obvious? Try this one: over 8,800 people searched for “burger king commercial” in January 2006. People actively search for and want to view the fast-food giant’s brand advertising. Could there be any better example of how the Web has created new ways for customers to interact with a brand beyond direct sales? For Burger King, the Web obviously isn’t about selling burgers. It’s about entertaining consumers and increasing the time they spend with the brand. Pull, not push.

As a more detailed example, let’s look at how SEM (define) research can indicate how online behavior relates to consumer interest in specific brands and their related products. In the outdoor apparel market, thousands of people specifically searched for the North Face and Patagonia brands:

Count Search Term Count Search Term
131,103 north face 38,738 patagonia
30,168 north face jacket 1,538 patagonia clothing
6,440 north face outlet 877 patagonia outlet
5,275 north face backpack 641 patagonia jacket
5,082 north face fleece 524 patagonia fleece
4,514 north face denali 280 patagonia clothes
4,256 north face denali jacket 272 patagonia capilene
2,857 north face coats 259 patagonia sale
2,691 north face clothing 184 patagonia down sweater
2,273 womens north face jacket 178 patagonia vest
1,970 north face outlet store 172 patagonia kid
1,612 north face fleece jacket 169 patagonia wading jacket
1,592 the north face store 166 patagonia r4
1,288 north face sale 161 patagonia and coupon
1,286 north face vest 157 patagonia retro x
1,259 north face youth denali jacket 152 patagonia down jacket
1,196 north face tent 144 patagonia store
1,166 womens north face denali jacket 140 patagonia outer wear
1,120 discount north face 132 patagonia micro puff jacket
961 north face shoes 128 patagonia shorts
Source: Yahoo Search Marketing, January 2006

How are these data useful? When combined with internal on-site search analysis and other Web analytics data, this information can provide valuable insight into the influence your brand initiatives have on customers’ preferences and brand recall over time.

Share Your Brand KPIs

How is your branding campaign influencing online customer behavior? Is it having a direct or indirect impact on sales over time? Are people engaging in your online branded content? How do you measure the effectiveness and ROI (define) for online branding initiatives?

These are the questions I’ll tackle next. To open up the dialogue, I’d like to include your feedback on the specific metrics you’re using to measure brand effectiveness online. What are your brand key performance indicators (KPIs)?

Send me your insights on how to measure the effectiveness of your marketing initiatives online.

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