Online brand marketing needs focus and consistency for a long time before a website reaches a key goal — a growth in return visits.
Return visits grow when people start coming to the site by entering the address directly in their browser address window, entering a version of it in search engines or saving it in their bookmark list.
Build a new site and watch with trepidation when the only visitors arrive by accident, paid advertising or another means that reflects no brand value.
Spend a lot of time, money and effort over months and even years before seeing any evidence of online brand recognition.
Traditional Online Brands
Traditional media is a great example of the challenges of online brand management. It often suffers from schizophrenia about a website’s brand. Should it be named after the newspaper or TV station, or should it have a unique, web-savvy name?
Some have opted for a pure extension of the traditional product. Two of the biggest examples are WashingtonPost.com and NewYorkTimes.com. Others have chosen a city name such as Richmond.com, which represents the city’s main newspaper.
Quite a few times, media companies have chosen both a brand extension and a unique pure Web brand on top of it, i.e., Landmark’s newspaper Web site at HamptonRoads.com on top of PilotOnline.com in the Virginia Beach market.
Visitors who type in PilotOnline.com will end up in a PilotOnline directory within the HamptonRoads.com umbrella address. Others still have produced a slew of brands — sometimes as many as eight or 10 in one market.
The same is true with online content categories. A company may build a site within a niche of the health category, then another niche site and another. Or it may decide to expand the mission of the first site and cover multiple niches.
Take the easy example first. Building a boatload of brands in a single market or targeting a series of single categories such as health or travel at the national level is fraught with problems. Publishers have to promote multiple sites with multiple campaigns using limited resources.
They also lose the ability to move a visitor easily from one site to another. Theyrun the risk of confusing visitors, especially if each site has a different design and navigation. In quite a few cases, companies that have tried multiple standalone brands have retreated back to a single one.
These problems are also true but to a much lesser extent for markets with both a brand extension and a unique, pure-web brand, such as the Landmark newspaper example. But it makes good business sense for the sake of the core business to have a strong brand extension.
It also makes sense to look beyond defensive extensions and into the realm of pure plays. A pure play site reaches new audiences and often allows the chance to try new types of content presentation and new types of applications.
It comes down to prioritizing. Online brand marketing is best served by making a strong commitment to focusing on a single site’s core mission and attributes, then consistently promoting those attributes in every channel over a long period of time.