Can we achieve branding by working online?

Online advertising has unique strengths but it’s definitely not a shortcut to increased brand awareness

It’s time to stop judging online advertising in isolation.

The Internet is predominantly a way of generating sales leads. It can be used to build brands, but this must be tempered by the same realism that underlies offline brand building.

It is too much to expect the Web to give you huge name recognition in months rather than years, particularly if you haven’t already established a presence offline. After all, it took companies like Coca-Cola and HP decades to build their brands.

Online advertising scores highly as an ideal medium for informing consumers about new products and guiding them to additional product information. On the Internet, viewers can respond directly to a call to action, they can often try out different aspects of a product and ultimately make an online purchase.

However, consumers are unlikely to click through if the offer lacks appeal and is of little relevance to them. This is why generic branding doesn’t seem to be working any more.

The key to successful online advertising lies in personalisation. The relative failure of the first generation of banner ads (that is, generic branding with no real interaction with the consumer) is testimony of this.

Provide the user with an ad that is compelling because of its relevance to individuals; add to this a compelling and dynamic experience – which is the beauty of the online environment – and online advertising will truly have come of age.

However, such targeting and personalisation is a complex process, dependent on technology, and advertisers need guidance from experts. But the range of different agencies – old and new – can confuse clients rather than enlighten them. No single source seems to offer a complete integrated advertising solution and we are likely to see some consolidation in the future.

In addition, advertisers will need to be aware of online advertising’s strengths and applications, and the technology required for focused campaigns. Many will need a bespoke mix from a number of agencies to maximise the efficacy of their advertising campaigns.

Online advertising is not a shortcut to generating widespread brand awareness, nor should we underestimate the time it will take to build brands. Advertisers need to make the most of online media’s distinct attributes and audiences. By deploying the right medium at the right stage advertisers will have a much better chance of connecting with online audiences.

Jolanta Pilecka is marketing director of Gavoa.com

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