Internet Branding By Numbers

Starting an online business? One of your biggest challenges will be getting noticed among the millions of other web sites. An online branding strategy plays an instrumental role in raising your site above the clutter. Toss out all those cheesy books with titles like 101 Online Branding Secrets and Internet Branding Strategy for Imbeciles. This week we present all you need to know about successful online branding campaigns in five easy-to-follow steps.

To illustrate these steps — and just how easy they are to follow — we’ve taken on a fictitious example company, in one of the least net-friendly industries we could think of, poultry. If the two of us can make an Internet brand out of gizzards and drumsticks, imagine the Internet makeover potential for your business.

Step 1: Get a Name

First you need a company name. For our example, brand names like Foster Farms, Purdue, and Tyson are fine for the offline world. But online business is all about change, embracing the information age, and challenging established business norms.

In keeping with that spirit, we settled on eChicken. This naturally plays off the trend of prefixing Internet company names with the lower-case letters e or i.

No word yet on when a, o, u, or sometimes y might become the next big thing. Two years ago we would have suggested CyberHen or NetFryer.

Step 2: Get a Domain Name

Of course the biggest challenge these days is often trying to find a reasonable, available domain for your company. Many businesses now select a domain name first before settling on a suitable company name.

But we buck the trends; we live on the edge. After all, we’re poultry mavens.

If you’re desperate, you might choose a domain name that’s a funky misspelling of the name you really wanted — but couldn’t get. But good luck hoping someone will actually type your URL in their browser properly to find you.

Although we discovered that was taken, we also noticed that it was for sale by a prospector in the recesses of Miami’s Silicon Swamp. Rather than go the route, we decided it was better to pony up the few bucks and help the guy post bail.

Step 3: Get a Logo

The Nuclear eChicken Commission

The next step for our online brand is to create the company logo — preferably something contemporary and indicative of a forward-thinking e-business. For many Internet businesses, no logo is complete without gratuitous circular arcs or slanted ovals encircling the company name.

Let us illustrate. A number of Internet companies — including AboveNet, Brightware, and MSN — all belong to the cult of the slanted oval, so why not eChicken?

Note also how we’ve taken advantage of our “dot com” status in our sample logo.

eGallo con Swoosh

However, we’re partial to what’s all the rage these days: the gratuitous circular arc, or “swoosh.” Variants of colored swooshes can be found in the logos of companies such as, America Online, Engage, — even VISA.

We’re not sure if the overwhelming popularity of the swoosh reflects Nike’s corporate sponsorship of anything with a measurable pulse these days, but no good Internet company should be publicly seen without one.

Step 4: Get a Tag Line

Next we need a statement about who we are. Not all Internet companies have tag lines, but bragging rights will help when fending off threats in the online poultry space.

Hence why all good Internet tag lines involve exorbitant claims you could never substantiate: “Scaling the Internet,” “We’re the dot in dot com,” “We invented Al Gore.” You get the idea.

Presentation of your tag line is also key. Garnish it with {curly} or [square] braces. Internet branding is all about using obscure characters you could never find on a keyboard. Triple word score if you use characters such as the pipe (|), the at sign (@), or the asterisk (*).

{The best breasts on the Web}

Above you’ll see we chose a tag line provocative enough to get noticed above all the “dot com” advertising noise. While our site might end up on the wrong side of blocking software in libraries and schools, a little controversy can’t hurt our press coverage.

And just think of all the search engine traffic.

Step 5: Get Public

Several years ago when experts predicted that Internet businesses stood to make a lot of money, who would have guessed that it would have everything to do with stock prices and almost nothing to do with profits?

Of course, Internet businesses realize only a fraction of the market gains from their meteoric IPOs. The rest of the money, often called money “left on the table,” serves as a sort of marketing expense. Chalk it up to investor relations.

In many ways Internet businesses are their stocks. Their IPOs are just as much about branding and marketing as they are about raising capital. And while the IPO process can be rather long and arduous, the rush of Internet businesses going public is bound to give rise to a new software market: IPO automation. With the coming release of Microsoft IPO 2000. and Quicken Turbo IPO., you can use an IPO wizard to guide you through the steps of creating an S-1 and filing it online with the SEC.

Tastes Like eChicken

Now that you know the steps, the business possibilities are endless. Vacuum cleaners, wigs, denture adhesives — they’re all brands just waiting to become the next big Internet success story.

With the right combination of hip name, cool logo and a hyped IPO, you are on track to online branding. No need to waste your precious time developing an actual product or service. That’s why pet lovers with no retail experience can get millions of dollars in funding for the next pet e-commerce site. It’s why people with no medical training are starting Internet health companies. You don’t honestly believe we know anything about chickens beyond “crispy” and “extra crispy,” do you?

At some point, it’s time to actually pocket some money so you can move on to your next great idea. Plan for an exit strategy that can include selling the company before anyone catches on. After a few of these successes, you’ll find yourself as the next poster child for Gold Rush 2.0.

No chickens were harmed during the writing of this article.

Related reading