Electronic Marketing

by Margo Komenar
John Wiley & Sons, Inc. - December 1996

Interactivity is the single element with the greatest impact in advertising and branding today. It works on many levels simultaneously in the buyer/seller relationship. When used in an entertaining presentation, an interactive program captures and holds attention while branding images are displayed or cleverly woven into the content. The ability to gather specific and up-to-the-minute consumer feedback makes it possible to adapt messages instantaneously and respond to needs and changing requirements quickly.

Lynn Upshaw, of Upshaw & Associates and former Managing Director of Ketchum Interactive, says that interactivity provides the opportunity for dialogue. It is an advanced form of direct marketing, and when the brand is skillfully integrated into the subject being presented so that it captivates and engages the consumer, greater brand involvement is accomplished.

To illustrate this, he adds:

"Pepsi used to have a test commercial they did and ran on the late great Interactive Network. The idea was, you'd be watching Jeopardy and playing the game at home and then the screen would say, 'Watch the following commercial, you'll be asked questions and you'd be given a prize if you get them all right.' Then a Pepsi commercial would come on and suddenly you'd be looking at a Pepsi commercial, trying to memorize things about it. You were so much more involved than if you just saw a Pepsi commercial in standard programming."

Interactive electronic marketing is far more than multimedia used to entertain or engage a consumer. It is a higher level of strategic marketing, allowing for a nearly infinite segmentation of the market, made possible by intelligent databases that can respond to interactive relationships. The Internet has brought these relationships into a real-time arena and has dramatically impacted the clout of traditional advertising.

The educated and strategic use of database information to assist in designing your presence will give you a measurable advantage in today's marketplace. Interactivity allows the consumer to speak directly to the advertiser, give important feedback on how a brand is coming across, on what else they might need to get them closer to a purchasing decision. By segmenting audiences through the use of highly sophisticated consumer databases, one-to-one mass marketing, or mass-micromarketing is made possible along with the shift from demographics, (where and how old your audience is ) to psychographics, (how they think, feel and behave ), as a key targeting tool. The ability to market directly to the individual results in a customer-controlled or customer-centric relationship between buyer and seller. The consumer now controls pricing more immediately and more directly than ever before.

On the Internet, your brand is like a living entity that must be constantly monitored, updated and responsive to input. Many brands are used to going through a third party rather than dealing directly with the consumer. According to Pete Snell, of CKS/Interactive, it is imperative "to understand what it means to have your brand alive in an interactive medium. It's very, very different than being in a passive medium, so you need to understand the medium and how you can use it, things to avoid......"

It is also clear that the impact of global access on interactive design is profound. Whether you are producing media or paying someone else to do it for you, becoming well informed and educated as to the cultural nuances of both your primary and secondary audiences can make the difference in your success or failure. Messages are delivered so quickly and so broadly, that it is well worth the added time and preparation needed to do it "right".

Often the personality of a company in the US is very different from what that same company has intentionally projected in other countries. In one publishing company, for example, the rules for the content of ads vary greatly among their numerous publications. Some allow tobacco and alcohol advertising, and some do not. When all of these publications become accessible on the same Web site, these issues become very interesting philosophical and design challenges.

Another very important area of consideration is the translation of colors and images in different cultures. Yellow in some Asian countries conveys anger, while in others it is considered very positive and will increase sales of products that incorporate it into their packaging. In Germany, forest green is a highly recommended color for successful products, and royal blue should be used in targeting the British consumer.

There are many books written about the translation of certain colors and images into various cultures, and it is important to be aware of this information when designing for the global and online marketplace. Although North America dominates the online shopping audience today, this is changing almost as quickly as the Internet has changed the commerce landscape over the past few years, and it behooves anyone involved on any level, marketer, producer or consumer, to be considering all of these issues now.

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