The Big News: Day two of Web Attack!
by Ryan Monceaux, Editor In Chief
NEW YORK - After a lively night of entertainment by
6'7" drag queen/talk show host/singer RuPaul, Web
Attack! awoke slowly on Friday morning with a supremely
undistinguished discussion regarding branding online.
"To Brand or Not To Brand?" did not live up to
Thursday's stellar content, but was unfortunately the
best session of the morning. The session lacked new
ideas but did seem to reinforce traditional themes
common to online marketers, especially those who follow
the Online Ads Discussion List.
Paco Vinoly of Lot 21 began the refresher course with
his definition of online branding and by listing
several misconceptions associated with the term.
Whereas traditional offline branding conveys a passive
voice, Vinoly said, the digital space is much more
active and allows the user to create his own experience
with a product or service.
Vinoly also listed a number of misconceptions that the
uninitiated consider branding but those "in the know"
would deem otherwise. Placing a company's logo in a
banner ad, while useful, is not exactly branding.
Vinoly explained that too many marketers come to him
asking to begin an online branding campaign by placing
banners with their corporate logo. A branding campaign
takes more, he said, then just having a corporate
status symbol or by making it larger in banner. A true
branding campaign involves what your brand does, not
what it says. Traditional advertising is a "talker" but
your brand is the "doer."
Laurie Coots, Chief Marketing Officer of Pets.com,
talked about the three month window that Pets.com had
to make the site work in the $23 billion a year pet
supplies industry. Coots said that Pets.com had three
months to get their "paw in the door" alongside
industry leaders Petsmart and Petco, who combine to own
60 percent of the market share. The higher-ups at
Pets.com figured that if they could not make
significant advances in the market in three months, the
venture would need to be abandoned to protect the
With only three months, a traditional company would
have forgone a branding campaign and gone straight to
an attempt to drive traffic. However, Pets.com wanted
to change the entrenched behavior of leaving your house
to buy pet supplies and to pre-empt the competition -
something they felt they could only do by branding
Pets.com as the leader in the online market. In the
words of Coots, Pets.com's advertising had to become
"an attribute of the brand" and had to develop it's own
personality. The company was going to try to build a
brand instead of buying one.
Enter the Pets.com sock puppet, the preeminent
SpokesSock in the world. This one sock became the main
reason that the company was able to become a leader in
the marketplace. According to Coots, the sock puppet
embodies the Pets.com brand, as it speaks to all pets,
not just cats and dogs. Most importantly, in terms of
marketing and branding, the Pets.com name and the sock
puppet infiltrated popular culture through television
and online branding - including the company's
first-ever Super Bowl spot. That Super Bowl spot was
voted the best dot com commercial of the past year by
the attendees of Web Attack!
"To Brand or Not To Brand?" was not exactly the
appropriate title for this session. Thankfully, all of
the presenters think that branding is a vital part of
online marketing success and see their future conquests
building on top of the brand they have worked so
diligently to create.
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