#11, January 2001
the Loop covered the Third Age of Internet in a
previous MarketLoop. When the Internet entered its
Second Age, many claimed that it was not a viable
brand-building medium. However, the benefit of
experience has shown that branding is absolutely
crucial to Internet success, arguably more so than
in the off-line world. Through the Loop has
identified and analysed success factors for
Internet branding based on a long-term view of
is really happening?
quick glance through the press may give the
indication that the Internet is a failing medium.
The stories about how much shares soared of the
first day of trading have been replaced by
coverage about high profile dotcom failures.
Letsbuyit.com has been rescued from bankruptcy,
e-commerce sales may not have reached expectations
and boo.com was all over the press. Suddenly,
venture capitalists do not appear to be rushing to
invest in the latest dotcom business plan. So
forget the hype and understand what this really
has become clear that Internet businesses do not
have way of working that make them immune to
standard rules of business. Like any organisation,
the business model has to be not only viable but
is a shake-out and this has helped us to identify
best practices for succeeding in Internet
branding. Distinct marketing methods are vital.
While these lessons have been distilled from
long-running analysis of Internet branding, they
are not so different from straightforward rules of
branding. This indicates that while “unlearning
and starting with an open-mind are vital,” basic
marketing conventions also apply to a large
identity must be clear.
has to be continually demonstrated.
is absolutely vital.
consumer is in control.
identity must be clear
helps the Internet business to stand out from the
crowd. Those companies that are most successful
have a clear and concise brand identity. They may
provide what appears to be a commodity service but
the strength of their branding means that they
have become the defining operator in the sector.
Examples here include amazon.com which is setting
standards in book retailing although it may not
have been the pioneer and sells essentially the
same items as other internet-based retailers.
is the defining search engine although it may not
have been the first and may not be the most
effective. It does, however, have possibly the
strongest brand and, like amazon.com, this has
enabled it to extend into new areas both
geographically but also in terms of products and
services. It is also interesting to note that
while boo.com was a high profile failure, it has
been relaunched by its new owners with the same
name. This highlights the high level of brand
awareness that had already been generated.
brands have been developed much quicker on-line
than they may have evolved in the off-line world.
Companies that have focused on a clear branding
strategy have defined the category in which they
operate and they may even “own” that category.
It becomes very difficult for a competitor to
attain the same level of awareness. Examples here
are Motley Fool for investment advice, Expedia for
travel and lastminute.com for late ticket offers.
plays a slightly different role on-line to that in
the off-line world. There is less of physical
presence such as stores or packaging design and so
the brand has to provide “guides” to help
differentiate the offering. The brand name may or
may not be the same as the domain name and, in any
case, they have to be able to differentiate the
site from other domain names and branding used
on-line without having the help of physical
can also include the provision of content to help
add value to the offering. One of amazon.com’s
strengths is the depth of its reader reviews while
Yahoo! categorises the sites listed thus providing
a helpful filter. Content richness and relevance
will be key in the future.
or category names are difficult to develop as
brands in the same way that they would be
off-line. It is also important to consider whether
the same brand should be used for on-line and
off-line presence. There are arguments both ways.
has to be continually demonstrated
previous BrandLoop argued that innovation is a
continuous process and that products and services
should be constantly updated to survive in the
hyper-competitive market-place. On-line this is
all the more apparent as the nature of the medium
can make it very easy to copy a good idea.
Therefore, a major opportunity can become diluted
very quickly. Consider the plethora of “new
intermediaries” such as reverse auctions or
price comparison sites.
amazon.com and Yahoo! examples show how they have
built-in rapid evolution to keep them ahead of the
competition. This includes the development of
local country versions proving that the Internet
is an equally local as global medium as well as
improved personalisation and service offerings.
addition, the medium and its associated delivery
channels are evolving rapidly and so on-line
communications needs to be dynamic not just to
keep up-to-date but also to take advantage of any
is absolutely vital
is important to offer something different. This
may be obvious but differentiation has to be
dynamic and sustained in an environment when an
innovation can be quickly copied and on a global
scale. Retailers may be selling from the same
catalogue so incentives must be given to encourage
the consumer to visit. This could include adding
value through additional content but it is clear
that price and product range are not
differentiating elements of a company’s overall
offer. Customer service and delivery are going to
become areas where e-commerce will thrive or
struggle. On-line communications are essentially
individual messages quite different from the
broadcast media of the past. Thus the extent to
which communication are personalised and made
relevant to the individual are crucial.
Personalisation helps a marketer to offer
unrivalled customer service and, moreover, it
makes the service easier to use.
consumer is in control
successful on-line campaign will recognise the
fact that different channels are used in different
ways and that different types of messages can be
sent to different types of access devices. In
addition, there are two key elements of on-line
marketing that are almost unknown in the off-line
consumer communicates with the marketer in a form
of dialogue rather than listening to or viewing a
marketer’s monologue. This could be in the form
of interacting with databases that capture details
of purchases and other behaviour.
has been much discussion about on-line marketing
issues such as the click-through rate. However,
this fails to recognise the fact that on-line
communications are consumer-driven and are not led
by the marketer. The consumer tends to be looking
for something in particular and so mass marketing
techniques are not appropriate. Consequently, they
may only click when they have finished their task
or on a later occasion. Consumers will choose if
and when they wish to visit a marketer’s Web
Internet communications such as pop-up advertising
and windows may be viewed as attempting to push
messages to consumers in a non-push environment.
This does not mean that they have no role but they
should not be used and evaluated in the same way.
On-line marketing has to address the opportunities
that the medium offers and build communications
around this rather than simply transferring
Internet has been marked by excessive hype as well
as scare stories. This is not the sign of a medium
in trouble, rather more it is evidence of the fast
pace of development and the fact that Internet
marketing is radically different from traditional
marketing. Quite simply, it is more difficult to
achieve results in a hyper-competitive and rapidly
evolving sector. However, basic branding
conventions still apply.
Internet business model must be sustainable. There
will be much more shake-out in the sector but
simply setting up a Web site, however good it is,
is no guarantee of success. The business model
will have to adhere to general business and
marketing rules as well as take into account
issues that are specific to the Internet.
brand identity clear? How do on-line and
off-line branding relate to each other?
innovation built-in and demonstrated? It is
absolutely essential to stay one-step ahead of
is the site differentiated from similar
operations? Is it possible to be closer to the
consumer through a high level of
the consumer in control? The site and its
related marketing communications should not
alienate consumers through over-intrusion.
However, it is necessary to encourage them to
visit the site when they wish to.