I feel really sorry for the word “branding.” Years of abuse by interactive marketers have left this word battered and misunderstood. As a result, countless 22-year-old interactive planners think that branding is the intangible effect of banner ads that is left over after one counts all the click-throughs resulting from an ad campaign.
Poor branding. In the strictest sense, the word refers to the creation of an association. But the word can be used to refer to myriad concepts, all of which are important to marketers.
There’s brand association, which refers to the things associated with your brand, like a tag line (“So easy to use, no wonder it’s #1“) or a concept, such as philanthropy. There’s brand awareness, which refers to a prospect’s familiarity with a brand and what it stands for. Brand equity refers to the value held by a certain brand. Then there’s brand recall, brand effectiveness, and many other concepts that fall under the umbrella of “branding.”
Maybe branding has such a bad rap in interactive media because it wasn’t entirely obvious how to make use of brand-related metrics in the early days of Internet advertising. There simply wasn’t any easy way to measure this stuff. Even after HotWired and Millward Brown conducted their famous first study of online-advertising effectiveness, many online marketers saw the measurement of anything other than click-through rates as a big hassle.
Even the fairly recent AdKnowledge Online Advertising Report, which proved that there’s more to online advertising than the results seen from immediate click-through, did not drive marketers in droves to fully measure ad effectiveness. Measurement methodology had to be served up on a silver platter in bite-sized nuggets before most online marketers would consider measuring anything other than basic direct-response metrics.
Well, guess what? There’s a company out there that can make measurement of the intangibles a relatively painless process.
Dynamic Logic, a New York-based company, has a terrific product called AdIndex that can help marketers get a handle on measuring various aspects of their brands online. The methodology couldn’t be simpler: AdIndex integrates with your ad campaign and marks web users who have seen your advertisements with a cookie. While your ad campaign is running, AdIndex uses intercepts to recruit a panel consisting of users who were exposed to your ads versus a control group that was not exposed to the ads. The panel responds to marketing questions; the two groups are then compared, and marketers get real-time data on the responses to those questions.
Not only does AdIndex give us a way to measure brand metrics like the ones mentioned earlier, but it also gives us a way to measure other intangibles, such as purchase intent. What happens when online marketers can demonstrate that their online campaigns had an impact on prospects’ intent to purchase? I believe the word you’re looking for is “proof.”
The wonderful thing about this medium in which we operate is that technology will inevitably come along to help us measure our effectiveness. For every AdIndex that debuts, online marketers move closer to being able to showcase exactly what an advertiser is getting from his ad expenditure. While this makes us all more accountable, I think that’s a good thing.
Now what’s this I hear about a slowdown in online advertising? Whether real or perceived, I think online advertising will become a heck of a lot more valuable as the result of technological advances. We’ll see exactly how valuable when significant numbers of people are zapping TV commercials with their TiVo boxes, ignoring the radio because they have high-capacity MP3 players, and paying less attention to magazines due to the impact of the web.