Our agency recently received a "request for info" form, which contained a section for checking off the various media we work in. There was TV, subdivided by network, spot, cable and syndication. There was print, split into newspaper, trade and consumer. And so on. And then the last check box just said "online." One lump category, from videos to emails to microsites.
Unfortunately, I think that's too many people's perception of online.
In reality, the opposite is true. The range of online components such as search, display, streaming video, microsites, widgets, email, and social media, are far more varied than the vehicles comprising the traditional mediums.
Most, if not all, traditional media are push media. One-directional, from advertiser to consumer. And while there are certainly differences among them -- print and newspaper often being better for more informative messages, TV being great for emotion and product demonstration -- the messaging tactics from one to the next are far more homogeneous than those across the range of online vehicles.
Consider the cross media studies (XMOS) conducted by the IAB over the past several years. To distill their findings, instead of a campaign with just TV and print, make it TV, print and online banners. They found by doing so increased campaign results as much as 20 percent.
Why? Here's a quote from Rex Briggs, CEO of Evolution Marketing, the company behind the studies: "Buying more TV ceases to add as much value as adding in online. If the core message is consistent across media, we find it produces a synergistic effect. When consumers see the (company's) brand in a new environment, it reinforces the core advertising message more than if the consumer sees the brand again and again in the same environment."
So, the idea is to spread a campaign's messaging across more varied environments.
That's an interesting proposition that follows logic. Thinking it through, which would you imagine to have the bigger impact: Seeing a TV ad for the 20th impression, or instead seeing a print ad from the same campaign?
And if it's more varied media environments you want, then online is what you want.
Because online really acts like 5 to 10 different media, brands have a much wider context to present themselves in and thus can impact their image more powerfully than with a group of media where the messaging is more narrowly confined.
Track through the user flow: A consumer sees a banner that generates general awareness of the product or service. Next, they might be on a social networking site and tap into a conversation the brand has been able to enter. In this case, they're now hearing people talk about the brand, and if the marketing's tight, in a way that adds a word-of-mouth authenticity to the same overarching brand strategy that was communicated in the display banners.
That exposure to the brand could then later send the viewer searching for that product, where they come across a search placement. The search ad is short and sweet and, again, lets the viewer see the brand in a different context.
If the viewer follows that search link, which a lot of people do, this would lead them to the website or microsite. This site would be a fourth highly-distinct piece of marketing communication the viewer has encountered in the campaign.
From the site, perhaps an email program or widget becomes yet another way the person becomes directly involved with the brand.
This combo of vehicles connects with the consumer in vastly different ways, at different points in the person's category or product interest level, and even from perspectives outside the company itself, as is the case with social media.
If this sounds idealized, keep in mind that even the most basic online marketing efforts for most brands already have a banner, search, website and email component. With video, social, widgets and mobile poised to become part of those core marketing tactics, online media's branding scope is rapidly expanding.
All marketing efforts start with a message that hopefully resonates. If you want to surround your current and potential customers with such a message, the planning for that campaign should originate online. If not, you might be checking off the wrong boxes.
Doug Schumacher is president and creative director at Basement, Inc.