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Online Brand Marketing Needs Focus, Consistency

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Online brand marketing

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.

These are the behaviors of people who:

  1. Are aware of the site.
  2. Have a reason to come to it for the first time.
  3. Have a reason to return to it.

A great brand takes on a life of its own and eventually becomes a form of free promotion. The “promotion” is the perception of the site and its place in the memory of the visitor. Good memories equal higher probability of a return visit.

Some publishers 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.

Search engine visitors who randomly choose a site because it fits a search term are not brand friendly loyalists.

Sites may 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 benefits and challenges of online brand management.

The benefit is name recognition. A traditional media website manager usually can log in to audience analytics and see the number of times a visitor has arrived at the site by typing the offline brand name into a search engine.

They also often suffer from schizophrenia about a website’s brand versus the core media brand. Should it be named after the newspaper or TV station, or should it have a unique, web-savvy name?

Should the offline brand and online brand be the same? The answer is no because they are completely different products with different audiences and different audience experience. One is a print newspaper that people hold in their hands or a TV station that people view. The other is a website on a computer screen on which people interact.

Some have opted for a pure extension of the traditional product. Two of the biggest examples are and Others have chosen a city name such as, 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. Others have produced a slew of brands — sometimes as many as eight or 10 in one market with each one reflecting a niche content and audience.

Finding the Sweet Spot

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.

Either way, an online brand that is an extension of an offline brand — whether it’s media, retail or some other business — must find a sweet spot between the parent business and the online visitors.

A common mistake among owners, executives and managers is the assumption that site visitors have the same characteristics of parent brand customers.

Site analytics are now sophisticated enough to show the demographic and geographic profile of the typical site visitors.

The more that site profile differs from the core brand, the further the web brand needs to go beyond the core. Otherwise,

site visitors may end up disappointed, yawn and leave for good.

Resource Limits

Hosting accounts can allow a site creator to build one site with a unique brand or multiple sites with their own nice brands. For example, a Realtor literally could build five different listing sites for five different cities, towns or counties.

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. They run 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. 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.

Managers may find prioritizing brand needs is helpful before taking more action or spending more money to market a site. 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.

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