The Killer App for Online Branding
As the business-to-business media industry continues to discuss subjects as diverse as HTML5, lead generation, the death of print, virtual events and mobile apps (to name just a few!), at a recent Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Innovation Days conference, IAB President Randall Rothenberg stated quite categorically where the big opportunity lies for media and information companies, according to an article ("IAB Innovation Days: Rothenberg calls for 'brand moment' to boost digital ad share") in BtoB Online. Before we get to that opportunity, the IAB story reminded me of a recent experience I had at the marketing summit of one of our top clients, where I was keynoting.
I arrived early for my session ("The Media Company of the Future" was my topic) to witness Shar VanBoskirk, vice president and principal analyst of Forrester Research, present the "Splinternet"—a Forrester-coined term describing the fragmentation of the Internet into blogs, social networks, media websites, commercial websites, "walled gardens" of apps not searchable by Google, aggregators, etc. After building an extremely complex and confusing landscape for the assembled marketers in the room, she went on to give some stunningly simple advice for allocating marketing budgets—in essence, she suggested that companies should research how much time their target audiences spend gathering information with each medium and then apportion their marketing budgets at the same percentages. For instance, if the target audience spends 20 percent of its time with print media, then 20 percent of the marketing budget should be used for print advertising. As coarse and simplistic as this sounds, it resonated with me because it was audience-focused—an "outside-in" approach.
The Audience-Ad Spend Disconnect
In turn, research studies of our highly technical audience had consistently suggested that our audience was spending the majority of its information-gathering time online (up to 70 percent), but clients' budgets were seriously lagging with as little as 10 percent allocated to online advertising.
Of course, this did not include the massive amounts of money companies were diverting into building their own websites, rebuilding them and rebuilding them again … and then throwing money at Google to get prospective customers to visit the sites. Even media companies (both traditional and new) have benefitted from the various lead-generation and lead-nurturing campaigns that aim to capture names and e-mail addresses, which are then deluged with sales materials in ever-sophisticated ways. However, the dollars invested in lead-generation are paltry compared with those invested in print, TV and radio campaigns just a decade or so ago.
Despite this internal investment and the attempts by many companies to become "brand publishers," they remain disappointed by the lack of site visitors. Social media has stepped up as the next big thing, and everybody has a Facebook page, a LinkedIn profile and a Twitter account or two—but still, the frustration builds as companies realize that, in the business-to-business space, brand really does matter. We have seen that well-known brands fair better on click-through on Google search results, and companies associated with certain solutions also fair better. This is where the killer app concept lies.
As the Rothenberg's IAB session suggests, the Internet has lagged in media spend because no branding solution exists beyond the rather literal banner ad—often ignored by site visitors. I believe that the media company that cracks this code will reap significant benefits. We are starting to see that extremely creative solutions such as the Community in a Box (CiaB) product—a new integrated marketing services organization targeting social media—from UBM's DeusM group can significantly increase companies' brand awareness and association. Other efforts, such as the "Drive for Innovation" product from EE Times—which involves multiple components, such as a nationwide driving tour of a Chevy Volt, games, contests, blogs, reality TV and lead generation, and is solely sponsored by distributor Avnet Express—is gaining great traction across the target audience. The single, killer app remains elusive, but online branding is the key growth engine for media companies, as it will encourage marketing executives to place increasing percentages of their marketing budgets with leading media websites. It should be a priority for us all to develop this solution. PE
Paul Miller is CEO of UBM Electronics and UBM Canon (Publishing). He joined CMP in 1991, and after CMP's acquisition by UBM, he has led a number of groups, global expansion into China, India, Japan and Brazil, and eight acquisitions since 2005. He has been recognized as a "Top Digital Innovator" by Media Business, a "Top 25 Media Executive" by Media Industry Newsletter, and recently was named by BtoB Magazine as a "Top Publishing Executive Innovator."