“Internet Branding is the process of establishing a customer’s viewpoint about a company and its product in an online environment.” Success for this type of online business is measured by how well their Internet branding campaign is managed and how often those who buy their products and services recognize the brand. Building your company’s brand not only attracts customers and builds a reputation of quality in their minds, but it also makes your company more attractive to a variety of potential investors. The message the company wants to communicate to the customer is the same message as they use with traditional branding campaigns, only using an online format (2007).
Using the Internet to help brand your business has several advantages. For instance, you are able to focus on a very narrow target audience (2007). “There are some sections of the population, such as young people and hobbyists, that you cannot reach with conventional media or whom it would be too expensive to reach with TV. The Internet is a good means to seek out niches” (Harvey, 2003). Also, you can use the Internet to initiate dialogue with current and potential customers, collect data, create opportunities for offering special promotions to customers, and it allows you to potentially have an unlimited global reach. However, using the Internet also requires that your company have a solid idea of how online media works and the habits of your targeted audience (2007).
A group of studies were released on July 18, 2001, done by Dynamic Logic, IAB, MSN and DoubleClick. All of these studies said that online advertising can positively affect traditional branding metrics (Meskauskas, 2001). A study done in Germany found that companies who use online advertising gained an additional 16 percent in their audience reach. If you need professional help on online advertising services, hire online marketing companies like SMA. Additional market research found that out of a group of 2,000 people who kept paper diaries and were asked to recall big-brand media campaigns, 4.7 percent recalled ads they had only seen online. This same group of people recalled 21.7 percent of the ads they had only seen on television. However, this rate rose to 31.2 percent when they recalled advertisement campaigns that they had seen both online and on television (Harvey, 2003).
Using the Internet to help increase awareness of your company’s brand can be done through a new version of direct marketing. This can include an e-mailing campaign, which is considered to be one of the most cost effective methods. It costs less than traditional direct mailing campaigns while still giving the customer the same amount of information. One of the best ways to develop this program is through an opt-in system. This is where the customer signs up to receive e-mails and updates from a company. This type of program usually results in a much higher participation rate than those campaigns that are totally unsolicited (2007).
New ideas in Internet branding have been developed over the past few years. One of these new developments has been the emergence of the blog. Blogs can be a highly effective way for small businesses to promote their brand because they are relatively inexpensive to start and easy to maintain. In addition, they can be extremely effective in attracting new customers to your brand and maintaining your current customer base. However, one drawback to this method is the possibility that you will receive negative feedback that could potentially drive away new customers who read the blog (Klein, 2007).
Another new concept has been that of using websites such as MySpace to help develop awareness of your company’s brand. While this is a free and an extremely cheap way to expose your company to the masses, many critics have said that in this case you get what you pay for. However, there are still people in the branding business who see these social networking sites as a wonderful tool for developing a company’s brand, strengthening customer loyalty to the brand, and eventually causing an overall increase in sales for the business (Miller, 2007).
The brand awareness of your company may or may not need to be developed on a global level. In most cases, to compete successfully businesses need to identify an appropriate niche market and then establish their brand only within that specific segment. If you are not a global corporation, then you do not need to try to establish a global branding campaign. In this instance, all you need is to have a successful branding campaign, which can be done through partnerships with other companies, direct marketing to the consumer (including e-mail campaigns), an aggressive Internet site and a very knowledgeable public relations department (2007).
One concern for corporations that decide to use the Internet to brand their company is the lack of brand protection. Companies must relentlessly monitor the Internet for anything that mentions their brand, either in a positive or negative way. An active brand protection system strives to eliminate any belittling activity against the brand or the company that it represents. The issue can be as small as an incorrect link from an unauthorized web source or as severe as one or more massive deceitful rumors among forums, blogs, or product review sites about your brand. No matter what the circumstances, in the Internet world, companies have to be fully conscious that their brands are highly visible and their reputations face risks online (2007).
Promoting your company’s brand using only the Internet poses another set of issues that need to be considered when planning your company’s brand campaign. While the idea behind using the Internet to grow your brand’s awareness has become increasingly popular, it often lacks the focused direction that traditional brand campaigns have had in the past. This new flood of digital branding is often associated with words such as alternative, nontraditional, or ground-breaking. However, most of these web-based branding techniques are simply the same traditional messages given to the customer in an electronic format. They also rely on the customer to actually click on the link or sign into the website, taking the time to participate in the branding campaign (Lasseron, 2006). Many believe that as Internet branding becomes more developed and common in the years to come, there will be a rise in more creative campaigns which will eventually take up a greater share of marketing and advertising dollars within companies’ budgets (Harvey, 2003).
The Internet has been around for many years. However, using the Internet to build your company’s brand or increase your brand awareness is still fairly new. It offers businesses new means to reach current and prospective customers at a reasonable cost. On the other hand, there are still several drawbacks to utilizing the Internet as your only means of brand promotion. This forum puts the integrity of the company at risk, since much of the Internet is not regulated, requires active participation from consumers, and can cost a small company more money if they are not electronically savvy. Nevertheless, the Internet has opened doors for brand campaigns that may not have been available in years past.