What's For Sale?

What's a brand? Seems like an easy question: the brand is what is being sold. But in the world of e-mail this question is not that cut-and-dried.

Imagine the following scenario: An e-mail arrives that says "Check Your Credit Rating and Win a Free iPod." The e-mail has a big beautiful picture of the latest iPod in it. Clicking through puts you at "," where it asks you to apply for a free credit rating report from "Credits America" by filling out a form.

What is the brand being advertised?

The E-mail with the beautiful iPod picture in it doesn't even mention" or "Credits America." One quick glance and you'd think it was an e-mail from Apple. From a traditional brand manager's perspective, the iPod is the thing being branded in the e-mail, and it is conceivable that someone would click over to the iPod site and buy one based on Pavlovian instinct. But it is an obvious misuse of the brand. It's a come-on, used without the consent of Apple Computers. It represents the "brand presence" of the e-mail. But from an analytics standpoint, is that an important point to know? Would it be interesting to Apple to know the conversion rate of ads that misuse their brand?



What about "Credits America," the ones ultimately getting the lead. Are they the brand in this instance, i.e., the thing advertised? They ultimately benefit from the lead. The Web site is designed to gather leads for them. Ultimately, in analyzing this e-mail, is it their conversion rates we should be watching to decide the ultimate effectiveness of this e-mail?

Or is it really the offer page itself that is the brand? Is the traffic going to the affiliate the important metric to watch? After all, they get paid on how many qualified leads they can deliver. Is it the measure of their success--the volume of consumers going to their Web site and filling out the form--that is the ultimate thing to watch in analyzing this e-mail campaign?

Or are all three elements important and worthy of consideration in determining the ultimate effectiveness of e-mail?

In the end, it is the affiliate that is the brand. They are not selling credit reports. They are selling their ability to get you to the offer table. And in the end, that is what the e-mail is selling: not the credit report, but the process.

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