Over the last years, brand building on the Internet has been struggling to find the balance between the consumer’s perception of a brand and whether the Internet was a vehicle for delivering that brand.
Heaps of hype in the last years persuaded brand builders to believe that the Internet was an essential medium they had to be a part of, but many brand builders have found that consumers who favor particular brands have been keenly disappointed by their brands’ online performance.
Some companies have felt the crush of this reality simply because e-tailers and brand builders weren’t well prepared. So many brands fell into the hype trap by grasping the online lifeline and promising their customers all the “usual” services they offered offline without preparing the structure for it.
You see, that’s the problem. The Internet is not for everyone, just as any medium is not always for every brand. Some brands are more successful online just as others are more successful on television or in magazine advertising. Procter & Gamble figured this principle out in the fifties. It assessed that television and video ads suited any products that benefited from demonstrations. And for Procter & Gamble, that covered everything from soap to general household products. Nescafi recognized that sampling was the way to success, so the company shared its product through magazines all over the world.
Let’s agree that the best medium for brand building varies from product to product and that the Internet isn’t necessarily a vehicle for everyone. Given this hypothesis, can you tell me what the online role is for brands on social media? Are all of them able to meet consumer expectations online? Does an online presence that falls below consumer expectations add to its brand equity or take away from it?
The crucial factor is consumer expectations. So let’s examine this further. What would you expect from, say, a Pepsi website, app or social media? That it would be cool? Fun? Interactive? Innovative? These are Pepsi’s core brand values. But only nominating these qualities doesn’t get at the heart of consumer expectations of Pepsi’s online role, they have to put that in practice, succeed in it in an appealing and innovative way, and update it at all times.
It’s hard, very hard, for many brands to go online without doing anything that affects its reputation. There’s no doubt that consumer expectations are high, and every word said is over analyzed and judged, so there’s no room for online mistakes. Should some brands avoid going online?
If a large part of the brand’s market is young people, for example an innovative brand like Pepsi, it will be compelled to be where young people are: on the Internet. Even though for some brands the online presence is essential, being online is dangerous. Almost anything the brands do online won’t meet their markets’ expectations, will be misinterpreted and severely judged. Yet avoiding to frequently update the website, app and social media will create just as much criticism, with consumers questioning what’s going on with these brands, wondering if these brands have fallen by the wayside.
I’m afraid there’s only one way to deal with it: Keep thinking of new ways to deliver the old message, and deliver that message only when it’s ready. And by “ready” I mean tested on and accepted by the consumer. By venturing online without a plan and a strong online marketing team, like SMA, and a good public representer ready to deal with crisis management, you’re exposing your brand to a dangerous gamble. And once you’re online, you can’t switch your website, apps and social media off because this sends bad vibes as well.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will the close-to-perfect online marketing.