brands, David Aaker, eBay, Google, Internet Marketing, Orkut, Philip Kotler, RIA, ROI Marketing, SEM, Television, Time spent on internet, Webisodes

Internet- A Sales Channel or a Branding Medium?

A food for thought, it didn’t strike me even when Google was making a presentation on Branding strategy. Spends more on building brands, as the cost of conversions on a brand keyword would be the least (roughly 5-10 times more than your average conversion). So invest in brand and reap benefits, increase your ROI and lower the cost of conversion. Perfect theory, instantly buyable. Another large part of their presentation was on how the brands will be built online- Content, display ads, RIAs video ads. You name it and it is on the internet. As a marketer and a category leader what would you do? Where would you
put the money and how much.

Lets go a little deeper, and recall the definition of brands (a difficult one and to my mind one of the very misued terms). A brand is a sum total of Product’s Physical attributes and its experience and has a name. A strong brand should be able to conjure images and experience (good/bad) in your mind. It is the holy grail of marketing, and in an ideal state, if your brand is big enough, you don’t need to advertise and waste monies (but you do that till you get there). All our B-school course, our strategy is around how to build great brands (Mr Arker has written 4 books on this theme and Mr Kotler tome must be in its 11th edition by now). However, we marketers are still pondering over on how to do it. More so, how to do it online. Or should we not?

Lets consider this small example, TV has 70 million households, and more than 500 channels. The black box has been the greatest invention for marketing so far (in my opinion and have no hard feeling with my other online loving folk). Experiments have proven that a communication has a greater impact and lasting impression when sound and Vision are in tandem. And then came the other inventions Computers and Mobiles (also with screens). And so it happened that someone (and followed by a number of whitepapers) announced the birth of second and third screen (please note that the first screen was television). And marketing was to be dominated by this genre.

In US it started about 20 years back and now they have 50% internet penetration, Singapore is 60% and Taiwan is 90%. For India, I only know the number of users and it also varries greatly, 25 Mln as per comScore, 35Mln as per IAMAI and 45 Mln as per NASSCOM. In short, though our sheer number is high, our penetration is very poor (i’ll update the penetration figures as soon I get it). In India, internet is still not a mass medium. Please consider the time spend by today’s youth on each medium (Source Business World Youth Report 2006, IAMAI 2006)

TV: 124 minutes/day
Newspaper: 30 Minutes/day
Radio: 84 minutes/day
Internet:61 Minutes/day

People do spend time online, where does the communication stick and occupy that little space, which creates a brand. Video ads, Social community, RIA, Viral, Flash Movies and webisodes are the answers. Huge engagement, huge interaction and best of all it is by choice and recommendation (by search engine). But is this good enough to create brands? Good enough to create recall and not to use the search engine to come to the website? Will it be a talking point?

Lot of brands have done it, and have been hugely successful. Google didn’t do any advertising (and maximised PR to its advantage). eBay utilised the online community and so did YouTube and MySpace. Orkut is very popular in India and they did it with 0 advertising.

And the most differentiating factor of our medium is the measurability. Internet is one of the few mediums that can define ROI (Direct Marketing is the other). So now we can use it to define goals and plan backwards to derive the ROI. The campaign have set goals and marketers can now be smarter and more accountable. However, this brings us back again to our moot point, can it create brands. At least in India can it replace TV. And will an emarketer choose Internet whole heatedly to drive the strategy to build brands?


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