Magazine article Marketing

Interaction with the Right Style

Magazine article Marketing

Interaction with the Right Style

Article excerpt

Strong and consistent brands often lose their way when they position themselves on the Internet. Nick Rosen takes a look at notable on-line successes and failures

Over 60% of Fortune 500 companies are now said to have Web sites. But many of these are corporate, containing the group logo, the annual report and not much else. Some major brands have ventured onto the Internet, with mixed results. Many more are considering their position.

As a new medium, the Internet and other on-line services, needs to be integrated into the marketing mix.

A strong brand tends to be based on an intrinsically strong product, but more important than the product is the coherence with which the elements making up the brand are integrated.

In the case of all successful brands, the name, logo, advertising, public relations, promotion, design, packaging, distribution and even manufacturing (the Body Shop for example) have been blended into a unique personality and positioning.

A brand is the embodiment of the relationship between a product and its consumers. The key principle is that the same brand values should be portrayed across all media. But this does not mean using the same lines or the same images in every communication channel.

It is the relationship that has to remain consistent, rather than the expression of it, and the key question is how to transfer a brand's personality on-line.

From the consumer's point of view, strong brands share many characteristics. They have personality, they are easy for the consumer to process mentally, they are dependable, they save the consumer time and also reduce risk.

In our information-overloaded society, a good brand is also a navigator.

The Federal Express Web site is an elegant expression of that brand's personality, and caters to consumer demands for interactivity in their on-line experience. FedEx installed an on-line parcel-tracking system that allows customers to submit their dispatch number via the Web site and receive news of exactly where their package is. It is not exactly dialogue, but it is a simple, useful tool which is consistent with the FedEx `can-do' brand values.

Private Eye is a strong brand which took a risk when it became the first national magazine to launch a Web site. Because the site was consistent with its brand values, it enhanced its reputation with readers, and boosted advertising revenue from computer companies and on-line services.

The same cannot be said for Tesco. The retailing giant has superb branding in the traditional media, where its image is good value, fresh food and concern for its customers. But on the Internet, Tesco is portraying itself as dry and distant.

If the company seeks to justify this by saying that the Internet is only used by businessmen, it should think again. Almost a third of Net-heads are C2DE. Of 1.5 million Net-heads in the UK, one million are students.

It sometimes appears that otherwise rational brand managers lose all reason when it comes to the Internet, and allow their brands to be seen in ways and in situations that they would never otherwise countenance.

Lufthansa is the epitome of a strong brand -- the Volvo of the airline world. So why does it have four Web sites? Each of the sites (produced for the German, Swiss, Dutch and UK offices) are perfectly adequate in themselves but each has subtly different logos. This clash of styles is not likely to enhance Luthansa's reputation for dependability and breaks the consistency of the brand.

This was an important consideration for publisher Miller Freeman, which has a number of magazine titles on the World Wide Web. …

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