Branding’s Big Challenge: Turning Brand Marketers’ Web Prospects from Weary to Winning


It’s no secret that more and more brand advertisers are embracing the Web. After all, the consumer is spending a significant amount of their media consumption time online.
Rich media and the onslaught of video have provided brand advertisers with Web-based media buying opportunities they are comfortable and familiar with. These advertisers should also look closely at direct response vehicles, like search and ROI networks, that have made the Web a nearly $17 billion medium.

Many of these direct response sources have great customer service and can easily start a campaign within weeks or even days. Additionally, they’re able to reach large online audiences — a brand advertiser’s primary goal.

Search engines and contextual networks provide positive ROI for many advertisers. Their beauty rests with their ability to track an advertising campaign’s performance and, even more exciting, actually drive real sales in real time, although not without exerting substantial work (successful ROI-based search and contextual campaigns typically require round the clock keyword optimization).

While such benefits are powerful — and readily apparent — for direct response marketers, brand advertisers have traditionally shied away from engaging such networks because their online work doesn’t typically involve an actionable result. In other words, they’re promoting a brand, not necessarily a product.

Brand advertisers, however, should think about including an action element to their online campaigns. One could, for example, encourage users to print a coupon, sign up for an offline event (sponsored by the brand), or subscribe to an e-mail list. Yes, brand advertisers are usually looking for more out of their online campaigns, and they tend to have very complex evaluation criteria, but small actions — and their corresponding results — could also contribute to the larger organizational goals.

Brand marketers are often looking to drive buzz and word-of-mouth marketing, two more intangible and unquantifiable goals. So why not start the buzz online as the top bidder on every major search engine for relevant keywords? Or be top in the rotation in your brand’s particular category in a contextual ad network? Such tactics lend themselves to quantifying results; one could, for example, measure traffic driven back to the site or to a desired page within the site.

Unlike their direct response counterparts, brand advertisers have — or should have — more stomach for new opportunities online and within search and ad networks. Below are two other creative ways to capitalize on search engines and ad networks — on a brand budget:

• Test user-generated content or new ad formats. This is a great idea for small-budget campaigns. You can quickly change directions if the content is not sticking.

• Real-time keyword targeting. If your product or service, for example, is mentioned or used by a celebrity, you can buy keyword combinations of your product and the celebrity.

I like to think of search engines and ROI networks as the low-hanging fruit of the online marketing industry. There is still an incredible amount of data that branding campaigns can gather — even without a specific action.


  1. For so many years, brand marketers have sat on the sidelines of online advertising and SEM. Only a few have embraced the concept of using multiple platforms to reach their customers. In many ways, these brand marketers have responded to the growth of the Internet in the same way newspapers and other traditional media. They’ve sat back complaining about the lack of measurement and effectiveness and have invested few dollars. Meanwhile, their customers are shopping and, basically, making buying decisions increasingly on what information they find about a product online. Whether its user-generated content or strategic SEM…brand marketers have to start spending money online to go where the customers are.


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