Advertising Age numbers reveal that, for
example, the number of brands on North American grocery store shelves
has tripled since 1991 from 15,000 to 45,000 products with an
exponential amount of advertising to support these new brands.
At the same time, the number of your competitors with websites
likely has grown ten-fold (or perhaps even greater). On the Web, the
power of Google has leveled the playing field between the haves and the
have-nots — big brands can’t necessarily spend their way to a better
brand, and new kids on the block are constantly emerging from seemingly
nowhere. Building a brand doesn’t require more work, it requires
A recent McKinsey article (Better Branding; subscription only)
highlighted the dilemma for marketers: “Building strong brands isn’t
getting any easier. An explosion in the number of brands—as well as a
proliferation of ways to communicate them, from hundreds of cable
channels to the Internet, product placement in movies, and even
mobile-phone display screens—has made it tougher to get messages
through,” writes McKinsey’s Nora A. Aufreiter, David Elzinga, and
Jonathan W. Gordon. “In addition, converging product-performance and
service levels in many industries have made it more difficult to
sustain existing brands. Meanwhile,
the economic downturn has hamstrung marketers by cutting their
All of that clutter and competition makes it harder to stand out
in a crowd. Cash fueled advertising campaigns may create awareness and
recognition, but not necessarily build a “better” brand. The brand is
all encompassing—from product to service to perception. Understanding
your target audience, your users and their expectations and needs, and
delivering accordingly, is tantamount to success.
Easier said than done.
Understanding the user audience requires an analytical approach to
consumer research. Although research itself cannot build a brand, the
adoption of both old and new analytical approaches to understanding
customer behavior and preferences can build sounder strategies for
enhancing the corporate brand and winning the hearts and wallets of
“The solid analytics at the heart of the new approach may not only
require new skills in the marketing department but also highlight steps
that other parts of the organization—from product development to
operations to customer service—must take to help deliver the brand,”
say Aufreiter et al. “Moreover, some marketers may worry that adopting
more quantitative techniques will compromise their creativity. In our
experience, though, getting analytical about customer needs and the
brand identity helps channel the imagination into areas in which it
makes a difference. And the ability to avoid costly trial and error and
to build a better brand more efficiently is too compelling to pass up,
particularly in challenging economic times.”
The good news, however, is that the web is still a relatively new
media, when compared to, for example, the ultra competitive retail
world. Yet the Internet, as we are coming to know by experience, can
propel no names and young kids working in garages into branding
It goes without saying that building a web brand is far more
complex than just marketing. A number of key contributors must be
carefully mixed and executed to create a valued resonance:
Of course these are not the only contributing attributes to the
web brand. Some attributes, what Mckinsey calls “antes”, are auxiliary
or added benefits that some customers might, for example, expect from
all competitors. Think of Amazon.com’s free deliveries—now commonly
offered by many of its competitors. Or a hotel website that offers 360
degree pictures of their rooms and property.
Successful brands deliver on both customer expectations and also
differentiate from the competition.
Those web brands that have high relevance and a high degree of
differentiation from the competition include Ebay, Google and
Understanding your users
Call center tracking
Moments of Truth
Brand is built and reinforced at web touch points or moments of
truth. Moments of truth would include the initial impression of the
site (color and design), product information, checkout process, search
engine use, etc.
It goes without saying that there are a lot of touch points in a
standard web transaction—whether or not e-commerce is involved. So, to
leave on a practical note after paragraphs on Mckinsey influenced brand
theory, here are some practical suggestions for reinforcing you web
Prominently display your organization’s name/logo (upper left
corner is now considered standard) and the organization’s “tag line” or
Use design that differentiates from competitors.
Emphasize the most frequently used and high-priority
Have a single “Home Page” that is clearly distinguishable from all
Ensure “About Us” and “Contact Us” sections are clearly labelled
in the global navigation or footers on all pages.
Develop sections and categories designated with customer-oriented
Make sure that the site offers multiple navigation paths to
priority content and tools.
Understand how to make sure the primary navigation area is
prominently situated and similar items are grouped closely.
Write in straightforward, informative language, using succinct
grammar, with consistent capitalization and design standards.
Proivde concise instructions for necessary tasks.
Maximize search engine optimization (strong page titles, active
links, keywords, etc.)
Provide clearly communicated and supported customer service and
Deliver on your promises.
Building a brand is not easy. Delving deep with analytics that
better reveal the soul of your target audience is more science than
art. Marketing itself is becoming less art and more science. Managing
key touchpoints on the web requires diligence and a sharp understanding
of those key moments of truth. Research and manage all brand attributes
and touchpoints and, at a minimum, assist customers in easily finding
information and buying products.
The danger and yet incredible value of the Web is that your
customers can always find you. If you’re not in control of that key
touchpoint, they will experience a lesser brand.