Building on the associative strength of memory theory and previous studies on the effects of brand name suggestiveness on advertising effectiveness, two salient elements in a business web page, pictures (such as logos or graphics) and words (such as brand or product names), were examined in three experiments. Web sites where salient pictures and words had business meaning suggestive of brand or product benefits were found to have the highest recognition, while web sites with salient pictures and words without either business or dictionary meaning were found to have the lowest recognition. These results suggest the importance of using salient brand and product-related names, pictures, and media content in general suggestive of the product benefits to increase web site recognition and the likelihood of a repeat visit.
Keywords: web advertising, corporate web sites, web site recognition, web brand names, web product names.
Web sites are widely deployed throughout industry, education, government, and other institutions (US Department of Commerce, 2002; Vedder, Guynes & Vanececk, 1997], and many have questioned how to measure web site success [Dholakia, & Rego, 1998; Iwardeen, Wiele, Ball, & Millen, 2004; Liu, & Arnett, 2000]. A commonly-held measure of success by web advertisers is the extent to which visitors return to the site [Karson and Fischer, 2005]. A user might visit a site after using a search engine, but can quickly forget even the sites that were placed high on the list.
The problem of remembering web sites is quite acute given that users have instant, direct access to millions of sites every time they sit at a keyboard. This accessibility is unprecedented in traditional media, where viewers have to wait for a scheduled show to air or readers have to purchase a magazine. Sites can be consumed at any time. While such a situation would be considered on the surface to facilitate the mission of a site, a deeper analysis reveals that switching costs are low compared to those in the offline domain. Switching to a different magazine or seeing a different billboard requires more action on the part of the reader than switching to a different web site. Even switching to a different television channel can be considered to have higher switching costs than the online domain because the TV viewer would need to search, often unsuccessfully, for other suitable content. On the web, there is always a site to visit. The challenge is to remember where to go.
Some sites are more memorable than others, and the goal of this paper is to demonstrate that designers attempting to make their web sites memorable should make careful choices of salient text and graphics used on a site. Text would include, among others, any prominent words on the site, such as brand or product-related names, and pictures would include logos, product-related graphics or other conspicuous artwork. These salient elements are also likely to be extremely important for building positive brand attitudes, which is one of the basic tenets of advertising [Vakratsas, & Ambler, 1999]. Salient brand and product-related names and graphics in a web site can be based on real people, places, and things, or, alternatively, can just be made up. The choice of a proper brand name or logo has been suggested as an important way to build brand equity for a product [Robertson, 1987; Upshaw, 1995]. Evidence of the importance of this practice is found in multi-million dollar investments in formulating logos and business names, as well as providing different ways to make web sites flashy and memorable.
Web sites, both during and after the currently-deflated "Internet bubble," have certainly shown us all several interesting examples of creative organization and brand design, and have captured a significant share of peoples' imaginations. There still is significant post-bubble excitement and press coverage of Internet start-ups and activity of established firms. …