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Devoting dollars to the internet

With all of the statistics on consumer behavior on the Internet, a sizable increase of e-commerce, and overall growth in Web usage among varying audiences, a nagging question still remains for business owners: How much of the advertising budget should be devoted to online branding? It certainly seems to prove that the Internet is a powerful tool. However, making the transition does not mean diving into the Internet and abandoning mainstream media. That's been done too many times with little success. The advertising market, with Internet advertising to reach approximately $7.36 billion by 2005 (with room to grow), is still dominated by other communication channels that are receiving larger ad dollar amounts. In 1999, the total advertising market was approximately $117 billion in the United States. Of that $117 billion, close to $45 billion was spent on television commercials, about $41 billion went into newspaper ads, and another $26 billion was split between radio and magazine ads. Internet advertising is a much smaller portion of the total advertising market. Although Internet advertising will have a bright future, it should never be considered a "be all and end all" strategy when it comes to branding. Effective branding results from finding a happy medium between online and offline marketing strategies.

Then there's the extreme opposite case, the business that has all of the offline advertising (direct mail, billboards, bus advertising, newspaper ads, etc.) and makes no attempt at cyberbranding. Take a hypothetical example of a Pontiac/GMC car dealer who puts up a Web site and wants to sell cars by driving traffic to his brick-and-mortar dealership. Thousands of dollars will have been spent within the first six months to develop a Web site and the owner of the dealership will not have seen any results or profits. He wonders why his peers down the highway have sold more cars within the previous few months than he has sold in a year. By making the Internet transition and not allocating the proper resources to cyberbranding, with a plan that drives traffic to the Web site, the dealer allows an investment to go down the drain. You have heard this before: The Internet is more than just developing an aesthetic site; it's all about driving traffic to that site and utilizing offline and online efforts in conjunction with the brand. It's imperative to utilize the Internet effectively by integrating online and offline branding. Aside from placing the car dealer's URL on every piece of collateral material and traditional ad, the dealer should have become familiar with what the regional portals (a site that provides specific regional information) had to offer with respect to directory listings and banner advertisements. Or, perhaps, as a first cyber-branding effort, enlisting in the regional search engine would have been helpful, or sponsoring an e-mail program to the subscribers of a regional online publication for increased exposure. With more consumers making major purchases online, being found on the Internet is a priority. In this extreme case, cyberbranding would have made a difference. On a national scope, when Half.com launched its branding campaign, it included advertising online as well as cable, radio, and print (and don't forget the guerilla marketing promotional stunt to have a town named on its behalf). The company targeted print ads to appear in the New Yorker and the New York Times, not to mention a host of commercials on cable channels including MSNBC and ESPN. Then, for a well-rounded campaign, Half.com aired radio spots on national live talk radio. If you think about it, how many dot-com ads do you hear on the radio in the morning or driving home from work? How many dot-com television commercials appeared during the Super Bowl? The market estimate is that only 1 out of every 12 companies advertising during the Super Bowl will survive post-commercial. There's a great deal to consider when it comes to advertising dollars. With noisy markets, companies need to employ online and offline strategies to reach fragmented audiences and drive traffic to a cyberbrand.

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