‘You can’t build a brand online. You have to go offline’
Used to be the one-size-fits-all advice from the advertising industry. While offline marketing allowed the brand to create and maintain positive associations, online marketing used to be restricted to monetizing this brand equity. Unfortunately, the online ad industry reinforced this perception with a focus on ‘performance marketing’ and lower-funnel goals of getting immediate return on investment (efficiency over effectiveness).
Things have changed: on the demand side, consumers now spend a lot more time online, browsing and exploring. While they are most influenced by your ‘earned media’ such as reviews and endorsements, they also enjoy your ‘owned media’ such as your websites, which achieve longer-term exposure (as compared to offline marketing) and allow you to give detailed information before, and services after purchase. Lots of research has demonstrated this (https://www.msi.org/working-papers/conditions-for-owned-paid-and-earned-media-impact-and-synergy/) and showed you how to implement best practices. So I assume you wanted me to focus on ‘online paid media’ when you voted up the topic ‘Driving Brand Equity Online’ for my weekly blog:
On the supply side of online paid media, Ecommerce platforms offer many new ad forms specifically designed to increase awareness and consideration for your brand, such as branded stores within the platform, where you can showcase brand values and lifestyle together with key products, and off-platform display, where a click bring the consumers directly to your Ecommerce page. Still, offline marketing remains the default for brand building, even for digital native companies that launch new devices. Do you still need to spend online? Our published research (http://marketingandmetrics.com/the-impact-of-brand-familiarity-on-online-and-offline-media-synergy/) shows that it depends on your brand and category:
Brands: are you established or a challenger brand?
- Established brands can mostly focus online, and enjoy the synergies of being on different sites, such as ecommerce (where consumers come to buy them), search engines (where consumers often click on branded ads: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.3982/ECTA12423) and affiliate sites (including social media). As most consumers are familiar with them, they need to focus on reinforcing points of difference and reminding consumers.
- Smaller challenger brands, in contrast, enjoy lots of synergy across channels. In our paper, we infer this is because they need to achieve familiarity and credibility (points of parity) and being present both offline and online helps in this regard. In terms of the Ehrenberg-Bass institute, the mental availability benefits from being present in both online and offline communication, with the latter more likely to be seen by consumers who are not heavy buyers in the category.
Categories: can consumers easily evaluate your product’s quality before buying it?
Our paper also distinguishes ‘search’ from ‘experience’ goods.
- Search products can definitely build brand equity online: quality is correctly evaluated before buying, and the easy search, checkout and delivery of ecommerce give it a distinct advantage over both offline and online sites where people don’t come to buy. Examples include books and office furniture.
- Experience products are harder to build online, as consumers need to experience them to evaluate fit, either physical (e.g. in fashion and in services) or technological (does this new device work with my other devices?). Informative online reviews could go a long way to address the physical fit (‘consumers like me said the fit was good’) and easy returns for technological fit. However, reviews require sales, and offline may help get the reach to start the consumer journey (e.g. for devices). At the same time though, ecommerce platforms now offer you many ways to stimulate reviews, and to boost the impact of these reviews, such as including them into your online ads. Have you tried this to drive brand equity online?
So that’s what the research says – have I missed anything? And what is your experience?