Tuesday, 3 March 2009

eBrands- unraveling the phenomenon

I intend this blog to be the first of the series I intend to write on brand building on the Internet.

Recently I was working on increasing the conversion rate for a website selling flowers online. While doing so, I realized the susceptibility of these websites getting into experimentation conundrum and overlooking the simple principles and importance of brand building.

Brand building has withstood the test of time and we have with us brands with vintages of more than a century. How could this not be true to any medium even though it is still termed the new media. Online/ ecommerce needs to quickly embrace brand building and place their long term strategies based on the same principles.

It is true most big internet players are aware of building brands and created mammoth brands such as Google, Yahoo, Amazon, eBay, etc. However, as the internet provides an ideal platform for any creative entrepreneur to set up shop, it is important for these small & medium scaled organizations to realize the importance of building their brands and marketing online.

Building brands online is different from the traditional ways, as there is no separate communication medium that talks to the customer about the brand. As in case of online the customer is simultaneously consuming the communication of the brand as well as consuming (read buying the product or experiencing the service or both) at the same time.

This concept is not entirely new to marketers as even in the traditional companies especially service companies have aligned brand building with customer experience. Where the frontline would be trained to show case the brand with its inherent characteristics that it stands for. Though traditional business had the luxury of time, i.e. if the customer was not happy with the service or found it incoherent with the image they had in their mind, the switch over would be gradual and provide the company time to react and place corrective steps. In case of the online medium the switch over will be instantaneous and the marketer does not have this luxury of time. Hence experimentation becomes even more important.

Also in the traditional medium the agents or medium of communicating the brand were limited and well understood by marketers like advertising, PR, corporate communications, etc. However in came online medium the opportunity that it presents is enormous and could have juggernaut effect. Further there are more ways that the customer himself or herself could promote or demolish your brand (Web2.0). And no other medium except (to a limited extent) direct mail could offer one to one communication with the end audience.

However, experimentation only starts after we have identified the brand values, characteristics and how it would impact our customers.