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Welcome to the Marketing Evolution...Marketing Today (tm)


e-Branding: Moving Your Customer Promise to the Web
By Arthur O'Connor

The New Economy was all about being first to market, generating volume and creating new, revolutionary business models.

The New/New Economy is all about reaching critical mass, achieving profitability, and integrating your business with others.

Yet despite all the web sites launched, money spent, and lessons learned, many brick and mortar companies still seem uncertain about, and divided over, how to best move their brand online.

Many still treat their online businesses as a competing or alternative version of their original brand. These same companies often use the web to do poorly what their other existing channels and/or sales forces already do well (uncover customer interests and needs, explain how products work, provide detailed technical information).

Even more disturbingly, some companies still deliberately under-design their sites as a means to address channel conflict. Rather than automating their sales force or enabling self-service to enhance their existing brand, they design the site with as little functionality as possible (limited selection, standard pricing), or no functionality at all beyond "brochure ware." Purportedly, they do this to demonstrate the commitment to their existing channel partners. You’d think they could spend their resources a little more productively to achieve this end.

Still others address the issue of online branding by plastering their company’s logo all over their site. By treating the issue as a simple brand identity exercise (extending it to a new medium), they avoid the more difficult and challenging task of developing a coherent online brand strategy.

The fact is that the best way to launch an online operation if you’re a brick and mortar business is to develop a strategy that optimizes and re-enforces both. To do this, it’s important to understand what’s different about e-branding from traditional branding, and, just as importantly, what’s not.

What’s different about branding on the net

Here’s both the good news and the bad news about the Internet business model as it relates to your brand: the web collapses your brand promise and sales cycle to split seconds.

  • The good news: the opportunity to make a sale (engage a customer) is immediate.
  • The bad news: customer expectation to deliver your brand promise is also immediate, as is the threat of defection to competitors, who are now just a few clicks away.

Given the increased risk/reward, you need to develop a strategy that fully maximizes the tremendous potential of the Internet business model while minimizing the considerable risks.

Thus, for your brand promise to hold up in this accelerated sales cycle, you need to focus on user experience (how customer experiences your brand). This isn’t just about graphic design (look and feel); it requires an integrated approach for your on-line brand experience: from the initial e-marketing pitch, the value-add of the online functionality, and the fulfillment and delivery of your offering.

Don’t make the common mistake of building up your sales and marketing efforts online without making an accompanying improvement in back-end fulfillment and logistics. There’s no point in attracting people to your brand only to let them down. If you don’t have the management commitment and resources to do both well, then don’t do either one.

What’s Not Different

In some very important ways, e-branding is no different than traditional branding.

Instead of building a different, online version of their brand, smart companies use Internet to create a richer/better brand experience (convenience, speed, value) to strengthen customer relationships and their brand promise -- across all channels.

Perhaps the best advice on branding (online and off) comes from Agency.com head Kyle Shannon, who uses a theme park analogy. Design everything around maximizing the customer experience. Anticipate their concerns. Serve them. Surprise and delight them. Even tease them a bit. But make sure they get the whole brand experience. Make sure they get the full impact of a good idea, delivered with excellence.

Arthur O'Connor is a senior manager in the Financial Services practice of
KPMG Consulting. He is responsible for building and developing the eXante
practice, which specializes in concept to launch Internet consulting
services. He can be reached at

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