Live From OMMA: Branding In Cyberspace

Responding to the statement, "Resolved: In the new point-and-click world, branding will become increasingly difficult," a panel of brand marketing experts debated the challenges of branding in cyberspace in front of a standing-room-only crowd at OMMA Hollywood yesterday.

Following an in-depth presentation on Doritos' "Crash the Super Bowl" user-generated commercial campaign, Jason McDonell, director of marketing, Doritos Brand, Frito-Lay, Inc., spoke of his beliefs in the difference between advertising and branding campaigns, and how that difference will play into Doritos' marketing plans for the next year.

"An ad campaign is timely, whereas a brand campaign is timeless," McDonell said. "A brand campaign takes the core of the brand and celebrates it three-dimensionally, and that can last long term."

"'Crash the Super Bowl' was an ad campaign, but what we do next is a brand campaign," McDonell said--explaining that Doritos will build upon the relationship it develops with consumers during that campaign, to continue to court consumer opinion regarding product names and flavors going forward.



Currently, visitors to the brand's Web site can participate in the "Fight the Flavor" contest in which they vote on which of two flavors they want to see remain available. In doing so, they have the chance to win prizes, as well as participate in an online match of ultimate fighting between the competing flavors.

McDonell also mentioned a product that will debut in June that currently lacks a name, saying "we want consumers to tell us if they'll buy it."

At the opposite end of the product and price spectrum, Ajay Kaul, who handles global Web marketing for Lenovo, talked about the power of consumer opinion in the blogosphere and the damage blogger Jeff Jarvis did to Dell on his BuzzMachine site with discussions of his experiences in "Dell Hell."

"A brand campaign needs to establish recall among consumers," Kaul said, discussing his challenges in branding Lenovo since its acquisition of IBM's personal computer business. "Everyone knows ThinkPad, not Lenovo. We need to build brand quickly and with scalability, and we rely totally on the online channel to do so. You can't risk losing trust in the blogosphere."

Kaul also responded to a comment by Rex Briggs, CEO of Marketing Evolutions, about price being the only differentiator--saying that brand leaders in his industry have benefited by moving away from a price-conscious model. "HP and Apple both stepped away from the price game and succeeded, while Dell played the price game and stumbled."

Chris Miller, vice president of marketing strategies at Yum! Brands Inc., worked on Taco Bell's famous Chihuahua campaign--and remarked that while it was wildly successful in terms of driving brand recognition, it was only mildly successful in terms of driving sales. By comparison, he highlighted Best Buy, whose brand is fully integrated on and offline.

"From the blue background on the Web site to the color of the shirts their employees wear, you're getting a totally integrated brand experience" Miller said.

The authority that conveys is invaluable, panelists agreed. With so much information available to the consumer today, there is a unique opportunity for the brand to define itself as an authoritative voice in the consumer experience.

"From brand sites to third-party sites to community sites, at some point people are going to return to an authoritative source before they buy, and that's a great opportunity for brand marketers," said Todd Riley, vice president/digital director, GM Planworks.

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