Building Online Brand Awareness: It's All About Integration

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. -- Marketers can leverage the Web to raise brand awareness, but the campaign needs to be part of an integrated strategy that is benchmarked using diverse metrics and multiple forms of media, including TV, print and out-of-home. That's according to Scott Symonds, executive media director, AKQA, one of the execs on the Online Brand Awareness Simplified panel at OMMA Global Hollywood on Monday.

"I don't think anyone tries to build a brand exclusively with TV or print, so I don't know why you'd want to try it with the Web," Symonds said. "We're as good as anybody in the world at creating brand awareness, but we don't like using the Web exclusively. It's an exciting opportunity, but not the only one out there."

Symonds and others on the panel said that integration is non-negotiable when it comes to generating online brand awareness successfully. For example, Scion used buzz tracking to help generate online awareness of an offline event, according to Bill Stephenson, Nielsen Online's vice president of client services.

"Scion is Toyota's youth brand, and they'd planned an offline event--a party with DJs--and instead of putting an ad online, they asked us to identify the influencers in their segment and reach out to them." Stephenson said that Scion contacted those influencers and turned them into brand advocates by inviting them to the party. "The message intended to make recipients feel like 'the brand came online to where I hang to invite me to a VIP party' so that they'd go to blogs, message boards and offline hangouts telling their friends about the party and spread the news about how cool Scion is," Stephenson said.

This integration also extends to the metrics and mediums marketers use to measure the campaign's effectiveness. According to Drew Lipner, senior vice president and group director at Digital Measurement Group, the metrics don't have to be transactional just because the campaign is running on the Web. "You don't have to analyze an online campaign with conversion-specific metrics. It really depends on what the brands' goals and objectives are, and things like whether they're trying to communicate with a broad or niche audience," Lipner said. "You can use attitudinal barometers like purchase intent, and make metrics like click-throughs or page views secondary." Lipner also said that some brands were interested in linking transactional stats like keyword searches or site visits to lifts in brand awareness after the fact.

The panelists also said that there was an opportunity to use social media properties like MySpace to assess the efficacy of a branding campaign. "You can use them to measure what we call a 'buzz sentiment'--or the perceptions and attitudes about the brand," Stephenson said.

For example, General Motors could compare itself against Toyota in terms of perceived "greenness" by monitoring how many times the brand name was blogged about and what kinds of statements were made on user profiles and discussion boards. "Brands can listen to consumers online and then analyze whether the campaign performed as it was intended, whether to scrap it, or even how to proceed before a campaign even gets started," Stephenson said.

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