There’s an assumption underpinning digital media that goes something like this: People are shifting much of their attention to digital channels, and eventually brand dollars will follow those eyeballs. Yes, these proponents say, the Web isn’t yet as good at brand advertising as direct response, but that’s changing. Maybe it won’t. That’s the provocative proposition venture capitalist Jerry Neumann makes in Adexchanger. What if the Web never nails it for brand advertising? Neuman makes some good points, particularly that all the steps suggested to make the Web better at brand building (better formats, better metrics, more creativity) have been tried and didn’t work. Could be that the Web is destined to remain in the direct-response ghetto with direct mail.
I mean, not to be defeatist, but we understand branding pretty well. Marketers have been creating brands nigh on one hundred years now; it’s not a black art. And the solutions I hear, even Tim and Tim’s, are not untried. More, they are not the things that make brand advertising effective in other media. I don’t buy that these are the solutions. I think it’s distinctly possible that there are no solutions. Maybe the medium itself is antithetical to the way brands are built. Like direct mail, maybe the very fact of delivering your message in a low budget, specifically targeted way cannot in any way build a brand. Brands attempt to exist autonomously, they are objects of desire, they want to distinguish what otherwise is indistinguishable. The psychological processes of branding are inimical to the idea that the brand has been chosen for you. Brands do not choose you; you choose brands. Brands are aloof, they aspire to be the Platonic ideal, their competitors just shadows.
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