Site Brand Planning

As a media strategist, you’re probably accustomed to planning campaigns around such factors as coverage (or reach), composition, contextual relevance, and efficiency. They help you choose your site placements, which are later occupied by creative that — thanks to your ad design team — is completely “on brand.”

But are the sites you choose on brand, too?

Every media property has one — a unique voice that’s delivered through its copywriting, imagery, and overall tone. Whether they know it or not, consumers choose one site over another in part because they relate to the brand. And whether advertisers know it or not, a site with a brand that complements theirs stands to outperform one that overtly clashes.

Often, abiding by such factors as context and composition allows planners and buyers to avoid the pitfall of mismatched brands. You wouldn’t likely see an ad for an ultra-conservative mortgage company on a satirical, acerbic property like The Onion. The context simply isn’t right. Delve into a mass interest category, like fashion or beauty, where content differs little from property to property, and the potential to align a product with a conflicting site brand is more of a threat.

Say you plan for a leading consumer packaged goods (CPG) beauty brand. Your short list is likely to include dependable properties like,,, and Glamour. With a collective tone that’s playful but reserved, all are good choices for virtually any mainstream beauty client.

Compare these brands to dark-horse competitor, a site that’s quick to reveal its own style. DailyCandy e-mail newsletters are packed with pithy, witty commentary and an attitude that’s as much fun as the great trend finds and retail recommendations it delivers. “Please don’t turn up your nose at the knowing staff,” a recent issue beseeches readers with regard to a new Chicago wine and flower shop. “That would really stink.”

Right down to its default text version, which encourages recipients to click to view in HTML because it’s “so much prettier,” DailyCandy seems to understand the importance of its brand and its value to consumers. And it makes an effort to share the wealth with its advertisers. DailyCandy staff helps clients write their sponsored links — as well as standalone promotional e-mail — in the brand’s signature tone. After all, it’s what has secured this once obscure newsletter’s place on the plans of some of the biggest beauty clients around.

To a strategist, there’s something so appealing about a site that doesn’t just cultivate a unique brand but makes every effort to share its positive consumer influence with its advertisers. Brand messaging that appears to integrate seamlessly with the site on which it’s placed stands to incite a better response, just as ads developed to mimic the look and feel of a site’s own content do. Consumers partial to a particular site and accustomed to its brand image and attributes are apt to favor ads they deem similar. As they say, like attracts like.

There’s no shortage of criteria or planning tools by which media strategists and buyers can evaluate a site’s value. Assessing the suitability of a site’s brand, however, takes an investigation of every aspect of that property, from the channels chosen to present its content (e-mail, blogs, RSS, offline print) to its logo, fonts, and photography.

Go beyond the typical indicators. Is the site in question progressive or stodgy? Is the design modern or more traditional? Each brand aspect can give you insight into real issues, like the site’s openness to create customized placements and its degree of content and banner clutter. You can tell much more about a site’s brand by how the content is presented than by the content itself.

And you thought you only had one brand to contend with.

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