Net will seriously damage brands

Ridiculous as this may sound, do companies actually look to find themselves? Do they know where they are? No I’m not talking about new-age spiritualism, I’m talking about online brand visibility.

Looking through Marketing Week, I don’t see many brands discussing integration of online and offline campaigns. Some times the news stories say of brands doing online creative and banner ads, but if I’m a consumer looking for information about products or a brand that I first saw through traditional media, I would not click through random websites looking for the brand’s online ver

sion of ads. I’d go to a search engine, which according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau is what 81 per cent of the UK population does too. Consumers may be researching brands increasingly online – but are marketers?

Have marketing teams checked Google, MSN or Freeserve lately to see where their brand appears? I suggest they try. We conducted research in 2003 that showed 63 per cent of FTSE-100 brands’ official websites did not appear on the first page of search results. Affiliates, brand hijackers and disreputable companies got there first – yet most companies ignore the opportunity to regain their rightful position.

Another way to check whether the brand is easily found is to type in a search engine query for subjects that you know consumers associate with your brand: slogans, branding lines and messaging, for instance. Type “Got your number” in to the MSN search box and you won’t find the website for directory enquiries service 118 118. What you get is a series of unassociated random Web pages, some of which promote other 118 brands.

If the Government is trying to promote its anti-cannabis legislation to us all, then why are “LordBong.com” and articles about “what

is the hidden agenda in cannabis laws?” the first to come up when I type “cannabis laws” on the Freeserve search engine? That doesn’t sound like the sort of thing the Government would want to be associated with. I wonder if anybody thought about marketing the drug campaign’s brand, values and messaging on search engines?

Companies must integrate their online brand with the offline brand by realising the association that consumers make between the two, else the brand will sustain serious damage.

David Harrison

Managing director

WSPS

London WC2

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