Big Brand Theory: The Expanding Universe Of Online Branding

Can you imagine witnessing the evolution of the universe from its earliest beginning? Imagine small, unrelated bits resolving slowly to form recognizable patterns. Like the hot, dense state that characterized the Big Bang, the evolution of online branding has been fueled by its own explosion of transformational technology (and yes, "black hole" is a fitting term for the recession). This is both a scary and exciting time for our industry, and I believe that leading brands -- big brands,to be specific -- are showing us the way forward.

I recently had the opportunity to hear from many of these brands in Miami at our client event,  "The Big Brand Theory." Senior marketers from brands such as Kodak, Alaska Airlines, T-Mobile, Microsoft and Proctor & Gamble shared how their companies are taking steps to transform online branding, digital measurement and creative execution. And since the dialogue went beyond theory to fundamental changes in practice, I can share some insights to help you calibrate your current position on the evolutionary scale for online branding.

Marketers Must Take Risks

Jeffrey Hayzlett, who recently ended his stint as CMO of Kodak, kicked off the event with a presentation in which he chronicled Kodak's historic transformation. He stressed the importance of taking calculated risks, especially in digital marketing, setting a tone echoed by every speaker over the two days. From Alaska Airlines, who said "marketers must not be afraid to fail," to P&G, who spoke of the importance of staying the course with its Prilosec campaign, the lesson was clear: don't let fear of risk stall marketing innovation. Over two days, it became clear that success online is contingent on accepting the paradigm of test, measure, assess and test again.

Create Experiences Online

Alaska Airlines made a compelling case for using connected digital channels to create end-to-end, uniquely personal experiences for customers. It is doing this by embedding social media and mobile experiences into nearly everything it does. The company's brand promise, "Home to Home," is brought to life in multiple iterations across the Web and it uses a mass of data to ensure that customers' experiences are consistent and consistently positive.

Social Media Is Serious Business

Too many marketers still dismiss social media as hype, and they're waiting for big brands prove it works. The waiting is over, folks -- big brands are not only using social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, they're experiencing dramatic results that impact awareness, drive leads and conversion. GroupM Search revealed recent research showing a client experienced a 20% lift in search volume when search marketing was supported by social media engagement activity.

Connect Online Behavior to Purchase

Yelp underscored the importance of localization and creating new environments for online engagement that brands can leverage to convert new customers. The central idea isn't that one channel or one tactic is better than another, but that engaging customers and prospects in multiple channels improves your chances of seeing how behavior changes over time and over different online properties. Certainly the ability to connect behavior online to purchase offline represents a quantum leap for our industry, but the first step is following a customer across all the channels in which your brand engages them.

Direct Response and Branding Are Complementary

For years we've talked about tearing down the wall that exists between direct response and branding, but that wall is finally crumbling. In Miami we saw examples of blended campaigns that challenge the notion that branding is softer and less quantifiable. T-Mobile stressed that media measurement cannot be thrust into silos, but instead must be part of a holistic content strategy and measurement system. 24/7 Real Media cited the recent Domino's Pizza campaign as evidence that investing in both direct response and branding is prudent and necessary.

Given what we heard in Miami, it's fair to say that we're further along the evolutionary path than most might think. Yes, we'll continue to see dramatic changes -- evolution is like that -- but now we have concrete examples of online branding innovation and success that prove it's finally time for the rest of the marketing industry to emerge and adapt.

2 comments about "Big Brand Theory: The Expanding Universe Of Online Branding".
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  1. Paul Kaye, June 1, 2010 at 3:35 p.m.

    No offense, but: zzzzzzzzzzzz. Nothing new here.

  2. Peter Rosenwald from Consult Partners, June 2, 2010 at 8:23 a.m.

    Some good stuff there however, you say that "T-Mobile stressed that media measurement cannot be thrust into silos, but instead must be part of a holistic content strategy and measurement system."

    Am I missing something? What measurement system?

    As the author of a successful book on metrics 'Accountable Marketing', I am yet to find a measurement system for any "holistic content strategy" that is usable.

    Can someone out there help me? My e-mail is


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