The Only Way to Build Brand

It’s amazing, isn’t it?! The World Wide Web as we know it today came into being just five years ago. Would you have been able to predict the Internet’s maturation into a global information, commercial, and social tool? Probably not! And nor would I. What’s more, would you have predicted the astounding rise in Internet real estate values?

Internet real estate prices have increased dramatically, and the inflation trend continues on high-traffic sites. One result has been the squeezing of more and more information into less and less space. The apparently unstoppable rise in cyber real estate values is forcing brands into increasingly smaller arenas wherein they play out the contest for consumer patronage and loyalty.

Think of Yahoo, Excite, AOL, cnn.com, and Lycos. They’ve developed and refined the sophisticated art of optimizing page space so that every fraction of every inch of all their pages is used to optimal effect. And to think that, just five years ago, the Internet’s hot promise to brand builders was one of an almost free, practically unlimited, communication facility.

So, let’s consider this reality. With the inexorable inflation in Internet property values, how can we get the best out of small and costly space?

The old-fashioned banner ad remains one of the poorest uses of space on the screen, with click-throughs falling from a high of just 5 percent to less than 0.3 percent today. The inadequate results gleaned by banner ads should signal to us the inappropriateness of offline promotional techniques to the online environment.

Consumers are as skeptical online as they are offline, and a simple banner ad offers canny consumers no brand knowledge, no potential for product comparison, and no means of suggesting any relevance to their needs. Why? Because the banner ad simply doesn’t work online: It isn’t interactive. And interactivity is the Internet’s operating asset.

Obvious? Of course. But let’s not start taking interactivity for granted. It’s a magnificent function and one that brand builders are only just starting to really capitalize on. The potential for addressing consumers individually is a priceless gift, beyond the old-world marketer’s dreams. But are we keeping our collective eye firmly on this capacity?

One-to-one communication proves its effectiveness again and again. I’m hammering the point because there’s much to be made of this important concept and its key manifestation: relevance.

We are receptive to messages of relevance to our own situations. If you’re casually surfing the Net and typing in key words, and you’re presented with marketing material that’s been triggered by your evident interests and needs, you’re likely to give the message the time of day and likely to act upon its suggestions. Search engines like Looksmart, Excite, and AltaVista have detected an up-to-25 percent click-through rate in such cases.

Brand builders need to concentrate on optimizing Net space now and that means achieving targeted, relevant marketing. The space challenges will become increasingly crucial as the Internet turns mobile and screen space collapses.

Don’t underestimate the importance of communicating directly with consumers or, as Martha Rogers and Don Peppers would put it, marketing 1to1. Unfortunately, this principle still seems to be lost in the world of clichi where truths often lie dormant.

Of course the cost of communicating one to one is still substantially higher than broadcast advertising. But the brand-building canvas is shrinking, and the irrefutable need for targeted promotion is growing. Target messaging is the only way to go if you want to communicate and build your brand.

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