Content is what matters most, said the Web experts at Marketing’s
There’s a window of opportunity for brands to get a foothold on the
Internet - and it’s closing fast.
Felix Verlade, of multimedia group Hyperinteractive, reckons the window
will stay open for two years - and we’re already several months into it.
Verlade was one of more than a dozen experts in new media and marketing
who took part in a unique debate as part of the Multimedia ’96
exhibition at London’s Business Design Centre last week.
Marketing and its sister title, Campaign, organised three days of live
debate which covered every facet of marketing through new media.
Inevitably, much of the talk was of the Internet and, specifically, of
the World Wide Web. With so many brands dipping a toe into the water,
what would make the difference between a successful site and an also-
ran? There were many answers (see our fact box for some of the best),
but most important was ‘content’.
Early efforts by brands often amounted to little more than an electronic
brochure. But what incentive would a potential consumer have to visit a
site like that? Brands need to offer value, which can mean merchandise
but more often means information that can’t be accessed as easily
That’s where Verlarde’s ‘window’ comes in: it’s those brands which
already have marketable alliances, such as Snickers and Euro ’96, that
can offer consumers something they’ll really want to see - while at the
same time getting a brand message across. There are still many areas of
opportunity for brands to create sites with good content, but as more
and more sponsorship deals are signed, the gaps get smaller.
So far, our panelists were in agreement. But there was fierce debate
over how to get the best out of a Web site. Verlarde argued firmly that
publicising a Web address (URL) in other media was a waste of time. If a
site was good enough, people would find it, and dragging them in through
heavy promotion simply muddied the water and made it difficult to
discover how effective the site itself was. What use is an advertising
medium that needs to be advertised itself, he argued?
Others disagreed strongly. In these days of integrated marketing, the
World Wide Web has a specific role to play as an information carrier, to
stand alongside other media such as press and TV. It makes perfect sense
to publicise a Web address as the place to go for more detail.
So what of the future for the Web? A show like Multimedia ’96 was bound
to be biased, and sure enough there were plenty of proponents of the Web
as the future of advertising. Others were less ambitious, but no less
‘I think it will stack up alongside other media as a powerful tool,
yes,’ said Chris Perry of DNA. ‘But do I think it will replace TV? No.’
How to keep them coming back
Our panelists were asked for their advice on how to make sure visitors
keep coming back to your site once it’s running. Here’s what they came
* Research - Marketing on the Internet is no different to any other
marketing activity. It can only work if you know which audience you’re
aiming for and what you want, stressed Mike Cobbe of Cobbe Smith Terris.
* Content - It’s simply not enough to carry information about your
brand. You need information your audience wants - and that usually means
paying for it. Since there’s a finite amount of really useful
information about (news, sports results, reviews and listings are
popular), brands with a long-term future on the Web need to forge
alliances with information providers now. As Belinda Mitchell Innes of
Carat Interactive pointed out, the best way is to leverage a sponsorship
you already have to provide fans with a Web site they really want to
visit, as Snickers has done with Euro ’96, for example. Would people
really visit just to find out more about chocolate bars? Our panel
didn’t think so.
* Interactivity - This is the whole point of the Web, isn’t it? Yet many
sites simply don’t offer enough interaction with the user. Looking at
pictures and reading text isn’t enough. many successful sites have
discussion groups where users can air their own opinions, but for legal
reasons it’s important to control what appears in them.
* Response - Some brand owners make the mistake of assuming that once a
Web site is set up that’s all they need to do. But users want fast
response, and it’s essential to have the people available to reply to e-
mail, fulfil orders and generally stay on top of things.
* Funding - All this costs money, and the consensus was that it’s
impossible to create a good Web site for anything less than pounds
30,000. Then there’s the ongoing costs of servicing it (see above).
Don’t start what you can’t afford to finish.