brands, David Aaker, eBay, Google, Internet Marketing, Orkut, Philip Kotler, RIA, ROI Marketing, SEM, Television, Time spent on internet, Webisodes

Internet- A Sales Channel or a Branding Medium?

A food for thought, it didn’t strike me even when Google was making a presentation on Branding strategy. Spends more on building brands, as the cost of conversions on a brand keyword would be the least (roughly 5-10 times more than your average conversion). So invest in brand and reap benefits, increase your ROI and lower the cost of conversion. Perfect theory, instantly buyable. Another large part of their presentation was on how the brands will be built online- Content, display ads, RIAs video ads. You name it and it is on the internet. As a marketer and a category leader what would you do? Where would you
put the money and how much.

Lets go a little deeper, and recall the definition of brands (a difficult one and to my mind one of the very misued terms). A brand is a sum total of Product’s Physical attributes and its experience and has a name. A strong brand should be able to conjure images and experience (good/bad) in your mind. It is the holy grail of marketing, and in an ideal state, if your brand is big enough, you don’t need to advertise and waste monies (but you do that till you get there). All our B-school course, our strategy is around how to build great brands (Mr Arker has written 4 books on this theme and Mr Kotler tome must be in its 11th edition by now). However, we marketers are still pondering over on how to do it. More so, how to do it online. Or should we not?

Lets consider this small example, TV has 70 million households, and more than 500 channels. The black box has been the greatest invention for marketing so far (in my opinion and have no hard feeling with my other online loving folk). Experiments have proven that a communication has a greater impact and lasting impression when sound and Vision are in tandem. And then came the other inventions Computers and Mobiles (also with screens). And so it happened that someone (and followed by a number of whitepapers) announced the birth of second and third screen (please note that the first screen was television). And marketing was to be dominated by this genre.

In US it started about 20 years back and now they have 50% internet penetration, Singapore is 60% and Taiwan is 90%. For India, I only know the number of users and it also varries greatly, 25 Mln as per comScore, 35Mln as per IAMAI and 45 Mln as per NASSCOM. In short, though our sheer number is high, our penetration is very poor (i’ll update the penetration figures as soon I get it). In India, internet is still not a mass medium. Please consider the time spend by today’s youth on each medium (Source Business World Youth Report 2006, IAMAI 2006)

TV: 124 minutes/day
Newspaper: 30 Minutes/day
Radio: 84 minutes/day
Internet:61 Minutes/day

People do spend time online, where does the communication stick and occupy that little space, which creates a brand. Video ads, Social community, RIA, Viral, Flash Movies and webisodes are the answers. Huge engagement, huge interaction and best of all it is by choice and recommendation (by search engine). But is this good enough to create brands? Good enough to create recall and not to use the search engine to come to the website? Will it be a talking point?

Lot of brands have done it, and have been hugely successful. Google didn’t do any advertising (and maximised PR to its advantage). eBay utilised the online community and so did YouTube and MySpace. Orkut is very popular in India and they did it with 0 advertising.

And the most differentiating factor of our medium is the measurability. Internet is one of the few mediums that can define ROI (Direct Marketing is the other). So now we can use it to define goals and plan backwards to derive the ROI. The campaign have set goals and marketers can now be smarter and more accountable. However, this brings us back again to our moot point, can it create brands. At least in India can it replace TV. And will an emarketer choose Internet whole heatedly to drive the strategy to build brands?


Clicktracks, DGM, Digital Marketing, GroupM, Hitbox, Internet Marketing, Omniture, Optimisation, Pay Per Click, Quasar, SEM, SEO, Webchutney, Websidestory, Webtrends

The First Step

What is the first prerogative of an eMarketeer? (Part 1)

A. Online: which includes SEM (which now includes SEO & PPC), Display/Banner advertising, E-Mail Marketing, Affiliate Marketing & Social Media

B. Offline: which includes TV, Print, PR Outdoor and BTL activities.

I belong to a small world of e-commerce, where the business survives on a website. The distribution is through the internet, which is also the first source for reach. Our first point of contact is our website and also it is the final consummation point. The consumers are also limited- a high ticket item, which can be bought only through a credit card (estimated to be 15 Mln in India). We have limited budgets (unlike FMCG/Consumer Durables), and being a start up ROI, every quarter is very important.

So what is the first step toward establishing that revenue generating website? Where should we put the monies, how should we measure the mediums? Please note that this is not a research paper with theta & Deltas, and might not have substantial data points for “Hence proved” formula. These are observations, which can act as handy reference points.

Step 0: Select a good Webanalytic tool
Before you proceed on strategy and define number that you will measure and which will define your ROI, select a measuring tool. You can better your website/campaign only if you can measure it. There are a number of tools available- Websidestory (now takenover by Omniture) is a great tool for eCommerce platforms and offer a wide range of products, right from Site Measurement to marketing performance (to measure SEM, Affiliate and other marketing campaigns). Omniture is a much superior platform, which allows you to measure the Social Media activities (RSS & Blogs) and has very simple dashbaords. They too offer suites for marketing campaigns & SEM, however the price is very steep. One good platform for content platform is Webtrends (we had the trial version of this software and was a good way to start appreciating Web Analytics). All these are real time softwares. There are a number of free tools also available- Google urchin is the most popular (You can use this too and evaluate it against the other platforms). However, the only hindrance is the privacy of data (and more so because I feel Google representatives can access the information. Now that they have vertical specialisation, it becomes even more scary. Clicktracs is another one. DGM also has its analytic tool and claims it to be good called DC Storm. Their affiliate and PPC is through this dashboard, and can be used for site Analytics as well.

Webanalytics will help to…
1. Estimate the daily traffic (and hence the popularity of the site) and the time spent (quite critical parameter for a content site)
2. Estimate the sources of traffic (where are they coming from, which websites) and hence the quality (basis what they do on the site, like on an ecommerce site, conversion is paramount)
3. Understand the navigation (and hence do website optimization)
4. Measure conversion and hence define goals for marketing campaign and site ROIs.

There is tons of data and webanalytics needs to sync in with the business goals if it has to make sense. The implementation of the platform is critical, as before we start relying on its results, we need to be very sure about the numbers that we see on the dashboard. More importantly pick and choose Key Performance Indicators (KPI) which will drive the business. This is not a one time affair, it needs to accessed daily and refined to suit business needs. You might want to check out Avinash Kaushik’s “Web Analytics- An Hour a day”

If you want to know how is your website performance ( and need a second reference point) you can look at audience measurement tools like comScore and Nielson Netrating (not available in India as yet). These are panel based data and works on similar logic as TAM (television Audience Measurement). It will you to corroborate WebAnalytic data for your traffic sources and navigation beyond your site. Hitwise is another superior tool, but like other has no services for India.

Step 1: Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

SEM might have been confused with Pay Per Click about a year back, but now for all practical purposes includes SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). The above is the image from Eye tracking study which reemphasizes, the focus on natural listing (The first image is for Google, second for Yahoo and last one is MSN’s).

SEO is the cornerstone of internet marketing. If your company’s ROI depends on your website, this is the first step towards making it a revenue churning machine. For new to this term, SEO relates to left hand side section (minus the top highlighted portion) on Google and other Search Engine interface. The click on this link is free, and there is not one rule to get to the top. Experiment and try, learn and experiment again. Writing Metatags, having site maps and building links through link exchange is not enough, as Google algorithmis never consistent. You would have to consistently look at numbers and take action accordingly.

You would need to invest in resources and have a special team, comprising of content writers, tech, website designs and a SEO specialist. There is no shortcut, and no blackhat SEO technique (read as spam) that will give you results. Best way is to learn this trick yourself, even the result itself take a long time to come (in some cases more than 3 months). One great resource is John Bettelle’s book “The Search” and his blog

SEO is basis a simple funda- your (read as site) is worth basis how many recommendations (read as backlinks) that you get. In the sphere of social media, getting the site recommendations will gain precedence over the work done by “Google Bots”. Hence if you are looking at SEO, start dirtying you hands with Social Media as well. Gain and nurture well wishers and advocates for your site who will get you that relevant ranking on search engines.

Pay Per Click, is what made Google what it is and changed the way we look at internet marketing. It is measurable, it is very instant and very powerful. Here you can bid the price that you want to pay if a guy clicks on the Google ad, arriving at this price is very scientific and a combination of the part of net return that you can put on table vs your competition and the demand for that product. Invest in identifying these keywords, the moment you start your business. These would almost be like a portfolio of keywords that can act as drivers for your business. If you are regular at this game, you will soon realise how to target the mindset of your TG (by looking at the keyword). But mind you, this is only 20% of the clicks (traffic) rest 80% is free as SEO.

There are good number of agencies which help in Pay Per click campaigns- Webchutney (highly recommended), Quasar and also GroupM (more for brand campaign). If you have crossed 15 lacs as the total spends on Google SEM, you should be looking at an automated solution- Efficient Frontier (highly recommended) and DGM work on these lines. I had also come across on other agency called Net Elixer, which had a similar model. All these platforms have unique optimisation algorithms, which optimise towards a goal. For an ecommerce platform, it is easy, as we are only looking at conversions/products sold. However for a brand advertiser, the goal will be different.

SEO and SEM should work in tandem. Though initially you will have to focus on SEM, as the results come faster and it is fun to see the numbers increase every day. SEO on the other hand will pick up slowly, but very high on conversions (double of what you will get through SEM). SEO and SEM combination works the best. For High conversion keywords, one needs to be present on both natural as well as paid listing. As your SEO campaign starts picking up, you would have to move lower converting SEM keywords into SEO. Over a period of time you will get the best mix which gives the best ROI.