Online Branding and the Behavioral Partnership


Engagement. We’ve heard it at the conferences, read it in the industry writings, and used it in new business pitches. It’s a sophisticated term with clarity and an ironically vague definition that has gained much industry popularity since 2004.

By now, media fragmentation and consumer multimedia consumption are old news. Smart marketers have long observed this trend and taken proper actions to steer their brands toward brand democratization. They’ve also realized time is brand engagement’s metric. Brands resemble time bandits who hungrily scavenge for consumer attention in a cluttered, multimedia world.

If we consider attention time a media currency, then consumer engagement is the trading floor on which all brands compete for a piece of the consumer mind. Behavioral targeting can be a powerful tool for effectively grabbing consumer attention online in the complicated game of online branding.

Frequency Holds the Key

Frequency, in the context of behavioral targeting, is the number of times a person visits a site or site section (i.e., more visits mean higher frequency of behavior).

The relevance of frequency and recency in behavorial targeting has long been debated. Some argue frequency is a more accurate indication of behaviors, while others believe recency is what demonstrates intent.

With online branding, frequency is more strategic and powerful than recency. If someone visits a site consistently over a long period, it’s likely he has incorporated this destination into his life and daily routines. This creates a great opportunity for brands to establish a consistent, continual communication with this person.

True, branding during a recency targeted session can result in immediate benefit and sales. However, if recency is really indicative of intent to purchase or immediate action, this type of transactional experience may not have the interactive dialogue required to establish meaningful, long-term relationships with consumers.

“Own” a Behavior

In its essence, branding is about establishing a meaningful relationship and communication with the audience. To continually sustain this relationship, you need a constant dialogue. What better way to host this dialogue than creating a routine habit or behavior for consumers so they are conditioned to communicate with the brand?

If brands can effectively shape (or, better, create) a consumer behavior by providing a guided interactive experience, the iterative process is capable of establishing a natural, loyal relationship. Consumers are bombarded with ad messaging and must be trained to become almost desensitized to anything that isn’t relevant to them. To break through the clutter, marketers must think about ways to integrate brands into consumers’ routine activities to ensure their brands are top of mind.

Think about Google; any Web-based email hosts, such as Yahoo and MSN; or even eBay. Think about the deep relationships they have built with consumers who want to search, stay connected, and are looking for products to buy. These brands have created (and to a certain degree, own) powerful behaviors with such deep consumer relationships that they are part of consumers’ everyday consideration and lifestyle.

What This Means for Online Media

The Internet’s interactivity has tectonically changed the media landscape. In its purest form, online media delivers a one-to-one experience that can effectively connect the audience with the brand, uniquely and individually.

With the classical media planning model of reach and frequency out of date, effective communication isn’t just about delivering the intended message. It’s about the audience being willing to buy into (engage with) the desired message. Communications must be sent and received.

The main difference between online and off- is the interactivity between messaging and medium. In TV and print, the medium delivers the messaging to the audience, and the communication ends there. The messaging is independent from the media vehicle, which doesn’t allow an advertiser to do much behavior influencing or shaping.

If a brand can create and own a consumer behavior, it can become an essential part of the person’s life and routine. Online, everything is interactive and intricately linked to everything else, fostering much opportunity for marketers to influence consumer actions. Influencing a consumer action can achieve long-term branding value and engagement experience. It’s precisely this integration of the brand into consumers’ lives that delivers the true branding experience.


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