Of all the businesses that are being changed by the Internet, advertising and marketing are among those being transformed most radically. If marketing is the creation of an image in the customer’s mind, then those who must market for Web-based firms have a dual challenge; How can they give Web prospects a compelling reason to select their Web site from among the billion sites they could choose, and how can they take an essentially cold and impersonal storefront, a Web site, and turn it into a human experience that turns surfers into loyal customers?
For CEOs and Internet marketers, Web entrepreneurs and consultants, and anyone else with a stake in building an Internet business, this is literally the $1.3 trillion question. That’s the amount of revenue Forrester Research projects will be generated by the Internet economy in 2003. In the “land-based” world, we choose one grocery or dry cleaner over another based on location, convenience, or price, or because of a satisfying personal interaction. On the Net, where every site is equally accessible, one storefront is as convenient as another, shopping agents, or “bots,” make price a commodity, and our interaction is with a server, not a service-person—how do marketers create a positive image for their brand?
Harvard Business School Press, 2000
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Phil Carpenter, director of marketing for Internet e-mail outsourcer Critical Path, and a high-tech marketing veteran, provides in eBrands: Building an Internet Business at Breakneck Speed a useful survey of techniques that have been used, and in some cases invented, by the most innovative and successful e-businesses on the Web. By assembling a series of case studies based on interviews and analysis of the branding efforts used by Yahoo!, CDNOW, iVillage, Onsale, Fogdog Sports, and Barnes and Noble, Carpenter presents a real-world crash course in Internet marketing.
Unlike many of the euphoric volumes that were released in the initial rush to analyze the Internet economy, Carpenter’s work is based on results instead of theories. And it’s based on a mix of both clear winners and some players whose fate is not yet decided. In each case study, he reviews the use of key practices in areas such as creating brand awareness, online and offline advertising, selection of marketing partners, and creating a community. He probes the use of pioneering marketing concepts, such as the idea of shopping as entertainment created by Jerry Kaplan of Onsale—the first consumer auction site on the Web—and popularized with great success by eBay. Carpenter also focuses on some of the essential off-Net capabilities, such as delivery and returns, as he analyzes the elements that create an image of excellence that stays in the consumer’s mind.
A library essential
EBrands differs from many of the Internet business books available due to its candor; Carpenter ends each case study with a survey of missteps, weaknesses, and potential challenges he calls “Chinks in the Armor.” Rather than selecting the same old “winners of e-commerce”—such as Dell and Amazon—Carpenter explores the struggles of companies batting for survival, such as CDNOW and Fogdog Sports, as well as Barnes and Noble, a brick-and-mortar company trying to craft a winning strategy against one of the crowned kings of e-business, Amazon.com.
As Carpenter states in his conclusion, “The development of an Internet brand is a holistic process. Dominant eBrands emerge when companies invest in a rich mixture of marketing and business practices.” Carpenter’s broad and critical viewpoint makes eBrands an essential holding in the library of any business strategist or marketer that must answer that $1.3 trillion question: How do I learn from the successes and failures of the initial Internet age, and build a brand that customers will trust?
Rick Freedman is the author of The IT Consultant: A Commonsense Framework for Managing the Client Relationship and the upcoming The Internet Consultant, both by Jossey Bass Pfeiffer Publishers. He is the founder of Consulting Strategies, Inc., a training firm that advises and mentors IT professional services firms in fundamental IT project management and consulting skills.Have you read eBrands? Did you find it helpful? What about other books on e-commerce strategy and the IT industry? Give us your thoughts by posting a comment below or sending us a note.
Rick Freedman is the author of three books on IT consulting, including "The IT Consultant." Rick is an independent consultant and trainer, working, through his company Consulting Strategies Inc., to help agile teams and organizations understand agile practices and migrate successfully.