A list of the posts in this series on Brand ManagementÂ is here.
OK, so hopefully we know the difference between a Brand in the classic sense and today’s notionÂ ofÂ Branding.Â I’m going to resist going into the history of Brand Management here because I think many peopleÂ in this medium simply don’t think the past has any lessons to offer, you know, “it’s different this time“.Â My experience has been that the channels and the tools may change, but the basic psychology driving human behavior is remarkably resistant to change.
So, instead of a long (and probably boring to most) review,Â let’s go ahead and just stipulate a couple of things from history to get started:
1.Â When mass media came on the scene, it was possible for the first time to market a product nationwide instead of market by market against the local offerings.Â The biggest problem you face doing this is theÂ chatter about the local offering – it is made in town, by a local person, and all the local people use it.Â There is history – “my mother used it, her other used it”, etc.Â In other words, Word of Mouth.Â TheÂ mainstream concept ofÂ “Brand” was created to addressÂ this problem – namely, to create the impression of a premium product superior to the local one you could sell for a higher price than the local offering based on creating aspirational images of the product in people’s minds.Â “Housewives who really care about their familiesÂ buy only the purest and most hygienic bathroom tissue”, etc.Â These aspirational images created Intent (or InterestÂ and Desire, if you prefer the AIDA-S model).
2.Â Â Brands worked, perhaps largely becauseÂ though the advertisingÂ might imply that “everybody who is anybody uses Brand X”, there was really no check or balance on this notion.Â People simply couldn’t communicate frictionlessly enough to handle any kind of “fact checking”, nor did they really want to.Â Sure, you could ask the neighbor over the fenceÂ how he liked his new Ford, but that was about it.Â Bathroom tissue?Â Not.Â Word of mouth was weak and very localized – unlike theÂ mass media Brands concept.Â In fact, you might not even like the product, but if there were enough really cool ads running on TV about the Ford, your neighbor would be impressed you owned one, and that was enough for you!
So then what happened?Â Â We started toÂ get “mass media word of mouth” through the webÂ catching up with the mass media of the Brands, and now you’ve got a problem.Â There can be too many peopleÂ counteracting the Brand message if it is not honest.Â Purely aspirational messages can be deflected or called on the carpet.Â Â Consumers can ask peers if “everybody” is usingÂ Glade plug-ins or not,Â and they can directly ascertain whatÂ their “risk” is to not provide a “fragrance greeting in every room” based on the experience of others (I’m not picking on Glade here, just an example).Â Â Consumers can mentally and somewhat empirically challenge the idea of whether havingÂ Glade plug-ins make life “better” in some way.Â Â They can even find out ifÂ the productÂ is a fire hazard.
All this communication about products on the web fundamentally changes the original Brand model, doesn’t it?Â When you can do your own fact-checking on any ad or Brand statement in just a few seconds?
You can’t simplyÂ trot outÂ aspirational messages anymore or make claims about superior quality without runningÂ the risk of getting into Brand trouble.Â In other words, the Advertising itself has been stripped of the “blind aspirational” role -Â and withÂ this removal,Â so goesÂ the Intent portion of the Advertising equation.Â The Aspirational stuff, and with it the generation of Intent (Interest, Desire),Â has moved to the web.
If people want to find out if the Brand promises are true, they go to the web.Â Hopefully, the company has somethingÂ online that convinces people the Brand promise is true, and that is whereÂ Aspiration and Intent then kick in.Â After the web site experience.Â Intent leads to trial, and thenÂ the aspirational stuffÂ is fed back to the web by consumers who have had a positive experience with the product.Â Â Then you have Brand.
Brand isÂ now the experience, the trial, the usage, the service.Â Â BrandÂ now requires a peer-confirmedÂ aspirational message.
Without the aspirational role now handled by the web, mass advertising is left with theÂ Awareness job – a job it actually doesÂ quite well, thank you.Â In fact, these adsÂ can drive negativeÂ Intent, as the Awareness drives discovery of the underlying negative chatter.Â If you own a Ford and think it sucks, and everybody on the web says it sucks too, then it sucks.Â Doesn’t matter what the Brand adsÂ say.
Some folks are taking advantage of this new mixed media model.Â Â For example, you can go on the web and tell people yourselfÂ how cool your new Ford Fusion is.Â Have you heard of the Ford Fusion?Â Seen the mass media ads that encourage you to go on the web and check out “user reviews”? (Marketing / IT folks, can we find a better word than “user”Â for this context, please?Â How about Owner?Â Member?)Â This is mass media doing what mass media is good at – awareness -Â and the web doingÂ whatÂ online is good at – Interaction, Intent, Brand.Â Each media taking on the task it is best at within an integrated campaign.Â Mass media generates Awareness through real “weight”, the web site generating Intent through positive Brand interaction.Â Intent leading to trial.Â Trial leading to Brand.
Now, let me take a moment to specify that “Brand interaction” at the web site is not playing some goofy game on the Brand’s web site where “exposure to the Brand name” is the end goal.Â That’s the Awareness thing again.Â That’s the Brand-ing folks again.Â Â “Exposure” is not the function of the web site in thisÂ model.Â Intent (Interest, Desire)Â is the function of the web site, the aspirational confirmations, the peer reviews, the decision to take a test drive.
There isÂ alsoÂ aÂ less traditional but no less important Brand role the web site plays under this model, particularly in services.Â Mass media generates the Awareness, prospects go to web site, the web site sucks.Â Can’t find any mention of the content from the mass media on the home page, there is no scent.Â Can’t use the navigation to find any reference to the mass media campaign, and the on-site search can’t find the campaign either.Â No store locator.Â Can’t figure out how to openÂ the high interest checking account or request more information.Â Visit Done, Brand = Bad.
If Intent is generated on the web site, the web site must be up for the job in more ways than one.
So, where does that leave our friend the Banner?Â As I said,
I would stop trying to turn the banners themselves intoÂ â€mass mediaâ€; stop worrying aboutÂ awareness and intent and all that stuff based on the Banner alone.Â Â SetÂ the Banners in underneath the mass media campaign as Bridge Media, a “reminder” mediaÂ reflecting the mass campaignÂ taking folks directly to where you want them to go on the web site or microsite.Â And then look at your awareness and intent – not based on the Banners, but on the interaction of visitors with the banners and the web site as a package.Â This would be a new media approach toÂ the new media, as opposed to trying to force the old display model into new media.
In simple terms, for online, the web site is the ad, not the Display unit or even the Search unit.Â The Brand interaction and resulting “Brand Proof” happens at the web site.Â And that is where you should doÂ your measurement, not on the transitional or Bridge Media leading to the web site.
OK, there’s your model.Â Â Let’s go back to our three media quotes that kicked thisÂ sequence off:
1.Â â€œThe net is not a branding tool or a quick-reach vehicle, but when used in conjunction with other media, it helps to seal the deal with the consumer.â€ – Bill McOwenÂ at MPG, the media buying unit of the mega-agency HAVAS, as reported in the Wall Street Journal (subscription may be required).
My take: DriveÂ authentic Brand interaction and confirm aspirational messages – “seal the deal” – on the web site.
2.Â â€œI donâ€™t think banner ads are a total waste of money, but theyâ€™re not very effectiveâ€. – Trond Riiber Knudsen, Senior Vice President of Strategic Marketing at Nokia, as reported in the McKinsey Quarterly.
My take: Forget trying to use Banners to generate awareness, unless you are talking about micro-segmentation of some kind, which, let’s face it, will be “not very effective”.Â If you’re going micro, use Search.
3.Â (bold emphasis mine) â€œâ€¦banner ads may provide a valuable function in fostering familiarity even if those that view them never click through to the source of the ads. The downside for advertisers is that any evaluation of the positive impressions that this familiarity creates, even one based on false premises, is enough to make those positive feelings vanish.Â This suggests that familiarity-based advertising may work best for impulse buys, where more detailed evaluations arenâ€™t likely to occur.â€ – Journal of Consumer Research, as reported here.
My take:Â Forget using Banners to generate Awareness or IntentÂ – it doesn’t really happen anyway.
So, is executing against this modelÂ very hard?Â I mean, other than the politics of which agencyÂ gets to “run” the campaign and which siloÂ approves what creative and so forth.Â That’s a mess, but not strictly a Marketing problem, it’s an Organizational / Vendor issue.Â I would askÂ any agency folks in the middle of this toÂ again,Â simply look at what is happening around you.
Can we be very far away from a time when the interactive agency makes a legitimate pitchÂ to be in chargeÂ of the TV for these campaigns?Â After all, the web site is whereÂ the Brand actionÂ is.Â TV – just Awareness, youÂ know.Â No “Branding” really going on there.Â How about some of the direct agencies gettingÂ into the Brand game?Â After all, they understand persuasion, the behavioral linkages required between the media, and are for the most part media agnostic, generally choosing the most efficient way to get the job done.Â Are you direct folks up for some Brand work?
Stir in a little Google / DoubleClick, a little MSN / aQuantive, plus someÂ Yahoo / Real Media, and I think you just might haveÂ the match needed to light this new mediaÂ Advertising model on fire.Â When they (especially Google) start testing the true economic value of Display versus Search, andÂ as the Display mediaÂ moves more towards an auction model, the Brand measurement focus will shift to the web site itself, and away from the Bridge MediaÂ generating the visit.Â As a bonus, this united approach really gets rid of the whole “view-through” measurement problem since the metrics that matter are measured at the site – the “true origin” of the visit becomes much less important.
Agencies, getÂ rid of the old media Display model in the new media.Â You’ve hadÂ a decade plus to make it work.
The web site experience is the Impression, folks.Â Let’s measure the value of the media based on the behavior of the audience, OK?
The next post in this series is here.