Why We’re Here in the First Place

OK, I’ll admit it. I’m sick of discussing, writing, and presenting all the positive-outlook-on-the-industry crap. There. I said it. I feel better. However, I’m not here today to introduce you to online advertising yoga. I’d like to simplify life just for a mere moment.

If you’re reading this, your interests, background, and passions are likely similar to mine: You’ve taken an off-the-beaten-path, stumbled-upon, or right-place-right-time route to get here. You may be a salesperson, a media person, or someone working in communications at a company or service provider. The fact is you’re here. You’re still here actually. Like the old song says, “I’ll survive/I will survive/Hey hey.”

I promise my pom-poms are put away. They’re not coming out anytime soon. No worries there. On a serious note, let’s think about what makes us tick. What makes us passionate? What keeps us up at night? Simply put, brand. Not textbook marketing brand. Brand with soul. Brand with energy. Brand we strive for. Brands we have and brands we want — badly.

Quick, off the top of your head think of two hot brands. Most of you probably said Nike and Coke. Am I right? (Please, if you’re Reebok or Pepsi I love you, too. I do. I’m just predicting what readers will say.) Maybe it’s Starbucks or Mac. Maybe you’ve worked on these brands. Maybe you aspire to. Fact is, we look at great ads for these brands and think, “Damn, I wish I did that.”

Our minds are cluttered with golden arches, swooshes, and khakis. Brands can represent many things to us as consumers and ad people: a desire, a necessity, a way of life, a fond memory, a status symbol, and a reason to cringe. Think about it.

There’s a quirky line in an indie song, “Cuz we know the difference/Between the font of 20 percent more/And the font of teriyaki.” Isn’t it true?

Now, which of these have become strong e-brands? I’ll let you answer that. Do most online brands get their strength from offline roots? Maybe it’s the synergy between each medium. Have brands become effective due to the nature of the medium, the clickability? Accessibility? Functionality? The cool factor?

From recent conversations, bulletin board strings, and reader comments, some top e-brands make up a much longer list: Mac, Yahoo, Google, Volkswagen, Amazon.com, Eddie Bauer, L.L. Bean, Orbitz, AOL, Netflix, Bluefly, IBM, HP, MSN, Weather.com, eBay… the list goes on and on. Funny, everyone had a quick answer when I queried, “Name two top brands.” When I added the word “online,” I got blank stares or questions or writers who said they were stumped. Or, “That’s a tough one.” Men seemed inclined toward portals whereas women tended to turn the question into “destinations,” places they shopped, researched, and planned. This mirrors usability statistics of the Web population as a whole. As I’m sure you know, women are said to be destination driven, whereas men are said to be surfers. Both genders answered with their favorite sites, not with top online brands.

Whatever the case may be, “a successful brand is a ‘promise delivered’… that product or service you can’t live without because it’s a part of your everyday life.” (“Code Warriors vs. Brandzilla“)

This is why I’m here today. This is what makes me tick. I’d love to get your opinions and insight. Until then, I’ll just be plugging along with my rose-colored glasses while sipping purple Kool-Aid.

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