Manish Shukla, IIM Khozikode
In the recent past, several business transformations have had the internet playing a pivotal role. Companies are now trying to focus on the internet as their prime medium of brand communication and Offline Branding seems to be all but redundant.
But there is more to Offline Branding than the carpet bombing type of promotion we usually come across on mass media. Concepts like In-store branding, Shopper marketing, Merchandise branding, Buzz-marketing, Toll-free help lines and even consumer follow up for CRM are all essentially Offline branding activities.
Offline branding provides the direct as well as the indirect halo effect which is missing in online branding. The perceived risk for customers with the in case of online branding is high too. Though there is better fit for offline brands like cosmetics and offline branding compared to online brands like social networking and online branding, how many of us trust the social-networking sites with our personal details?
Most importantly, the physical and emotional attachment with the consumers is missing in Online Branding. Who would like to interact with a Disney character online when he can shake hands with it personally? It is the brand personality which differentiates the company from its competitors and helps in building brand loyalty. Instead of jumping onto the online bandwagon, the marketer must first see whether the target consumer has a footprint on the internet; for e.g., India with 7% internet penetration does not justify going for Online Branding alone.
A vague virtual branding exercise makes it difficult for the brand to be differentiated from its competitors. Most web practices look similar and confuse for the target consumer. Looking at the bigger picture, offline brand personality is always better, clearer and more personal than online.
Tushar Jain, NMIMS
Branding can be defined as an exercise to communicate to your target audience what your brand is all about; to make them chose you over the competition. This has usually been through traditional channels like television, radio,print and billboards. No doubt these methods do help in creating brand awareness; we simply can’t underestimate the influence of internet in today’s world.
One of the key benefits of online branding is that it’s completely measurable, unlike offline branding. Using state-of-the-art techniques and software programs, we can virtually track everything: right from visitor’s demographics, their click-through ratios, their conversion ratios to the search phrases used by them. This in turn helps in measuring efficiency of the program by measuring conversions, which further augments in effective and focused branding exercises. Moreover given the spread of internet, everyone has an online presence. Remember that in the digital world, you are not the only keeper of your brand. There are people who write about it & may impact it in a big way. Hence, online branding becomes more important in mitigating any negative emotions which might have crept in the target audience. As the reach of internet spreads, consumers become more interactive. Now we don’t wait for the information to flow to us; we are going out and searching for it in the digital space. Unlike offline branding, online branding serves this target segment with focused branding programs based on specific searches and keywords.
At the end of the day, given the advent of internet in our lives and yearn for information, online branding is a handy and cost effective method to run focused yet successful marketing campaigns.