The significance of Internet brands and brand building is evident from the work of Thomas E. Miller vice president of Cyber Dialogue, a New York company that develops both custom and syndicated research.
His most recent papers suggest that traditional brand building has depended on sheer visibility. It required that the company presented its brand (logo etc) as often as possible. There are not many opportunities for this kind of brand promotion among the many and disparate communities in the Internet Society. In addition, netzines are not passive. Interactive consumers are often uniquely focused on a specific information goal, which can have the effect of blocking brand images, rather than passively receptivity to whatever passes in front of them.
Companies have to respond effectively, then the brand gains on the Internet. If the company is seen as passive, that is presenting its sales 'brochure' on its Web site, then it will fail to interest the consumer.
Brands can be promoted on the Internet in several ways. One way is by building large comprehensive sites that are unique such as Amazon or by using the same approach but with a long established brand, with the cultural shock that goes with it! The alternatives may include dynamic presence building using a variety of techniques in concert.
Brand impressions are built on-line in smaller numbers on the Internet. There is no equivalent of mass promotion in Internet Society such as one may achieve using prime time television.
While off-line promotion may be designed to bring visitors directly to your site, online promotion has to be a combination of many activities aimed at a variety of communities.
Thus the promotion of the brand may be in getting your site to the top of the listings in Web crawlers, evident in big portals and with banner advertisements on many sites. It may also include a wide range of hyperlinks to your site and encouragement in opinion forming Internet media to both discuss a wide range of subjects related to your site in a wide range of Internet communities.
Brand building in cyberspace needs to ensure that each interaction with a potential customer impresses them of your sincerity, willingness to listen, and responsiveness to whatever needs that person may have. Once again, it appears, the relationship is a question of building and securing trust through a well developed on-line and off line reputation.
Internet users demand excellent service and are not, nor need to be, with so many alternative vendors, so brand conscious. Brand equity is important and is why some sites are able to charge for subscription fees while others must give information away.
Brand equity (the value of the brand in the competitive environment) is central to why AOL is the number one on-line service and Yahoo is the top Web index. Research by Cyber Dialog demonstrated that on-line users would rather bank on-line with their local branch than with an unknown Internet bank. This doesn't mean that an upstart can't compete with big named banks but shows that, in some instances offline brands can capitalise on existing brand equity when they go on-line.
Good Internet brands have a number of common attributes. They offer up to date information, interactivity and corporate culture. With such attributes, even a bad experience will draw the loyal visitor back to the site. On-line marketers have to keep loyal visitors/consumers and capture those just clicking though. In this way the brand will generate repeat on-line business say Cyber Dialogue.
It is now quite clear that that the Internet Society comprises many interests and virtual communities. The old rules of brand based marketing (even classifications such as socio-economics) are too clumsy for the sophistication of netzines. Analysing various user segments (by age, sex, reason for Internet use, Internet experience, relationship with Internet Society communities, education and household status) is key to understanding how likely different users will be to respond to the range of products and services.
The way a company markets offline does affect its ability to market products on-line. There is evidence from Cyber Dialogue that netzines are using search engines before settling on brands they know. Electrolux has a world-wide network of dealers, distributors and retailers. They all have their own Web sites. Electrolux has little control over how it is represented on the Web. Some are very good in using the Electrolux style.
In Sweden, the logo style is used properly and adds to the Electrolux brand and online presence but in other places the style can be completely different.
Here is another opportunity for the company to enhance its Internet brand presence and add to its on-line reputation. This could have been very useful in, say Santa Cruise. Commonality of branding across the world is now important because of the global nature of the Internet.