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Online not a good vehicle for brand building?

18:46 on Wed, 29 Aug 2007 | Industry Comment | 0 Comments

As a marketing and brand consultant himself, Further Partner Steve Jaggard gets irritated hearing traditional agencies knocking online for its failure to build brands or portray brand values - and points to the first major study, using car brands, to silence the doubters.

To those not within, or close to, the online industry it’s natural to assume that the tradtitional mass media choices are light years ahead of the digital arena in terms of bringing consumers closer to brands.

And to be fair, because the digital industry is still in an evolutionary stage, there has been very little, if any, evidence to back up the online case for the defence.

Until recently that is - as, rather than getting hot under the collar, I can now sit back with a beer in hand and point them to the IAB’s first Brand Engagement Study.

It doesn’t just prove that online is an effective brand building medium, but
cross-media research shows online has a greater effect on brand engagement than any other medium. Did you hear that? Any other medium. Wow!

The joint research which was carried out in conjunction with Carat Insight examined the effectiveness of online against other media, as well as wider influences like brand ownership, reading reviews, or recommendations from friends. The research concentrated on five advertising campaigns from the supermini car sector, including: Renault Clio, Toyota Aygo, Nissan Micra, Ford Fiesta and Mini.

The study found that brand engagement is determined by different factors depending on the audience and product category. For this audience the most important contributors to brand engagement were identified as a sense of style and fun.

Overall the study showed that the brand's own advertising contributed 15% to brand engagement. Within this, the study found that the internet has a greater effect on brand engagement than any other medium, contributing an average of 39.8% of the advertising effect, but as much as 64.7% in the case of one manufacturer’s campaign. Press advertising has the second greatest influence, contributing 36.7% of total consumer engagement. Next was TV with 17.6% and outdoor with 4.1%.

Direct experience of a brand, such as owning a particular model, holds considerable sway over a consumer’s engagement with a car brand, but indirect experiences – reading reviews, word of mouth, etc – play an important role as well. Of these indirect experiences online contributed 27.5% of the effect on engagement. Offline experiences, like reading magazine reviews or watching specialist TV programmes, contributed 19.0%. Dealerships, whether on the phone or visiting in person, delivered 19.4% whilst other influences, like opinions directly from friends, have the most influence accounting for 34.2%.

Guy Phillipson, IAB CEO went on to explain, “This important cross-media study in the car market shows how online drives brand engagement more than any other medium – not just through rich media advertising, but because consumers go on to seek product and information and reviews, too. This study will go a long way to help brand marketers understand how well online performs in the media mix.”

The study used focus groups and online questionnaires to study the opinions of 1,000 female internet users with children under 16. This ‘non-techie’ audience was selected because of its importance to advertisers and its influence over household spending.

The results show that online is now as effective at reaching women with children as traditional media. The online campaigns study recorded an average recognition level of 23%, which compares more than favourably with outdoor at 18%, press at 25% and TV at 44%.

Compared with other media, the internet was the most popular source of car reviews with 22.9% of respondents using this research method. The internet is also by far the most popular medium for price and feature comparison. 26.7% used online when considering a car purchase, more than double the number of respondents using specialist car magazines (10.5%).

The internet as a source of information
The internet is a valued tool for this audience when researching a new car purchase and they use it in a wide range of different ways.

Online car research activities in last 12 months (% of respondents):

    * Looked at a car company’s website - 45.9%
    * Looked for insurance quotes - 40.6%
    * Looked for information using a search engine - 36.4%
    * Look for information using specialist car websites - 30.4%
    * Price and feature comparison sites - 27%
    * Reviews - 22.9%
    * Searched for cars on auction sites - 15.6%

Of course, this is just one study (albeit a large and extremely credible one) into a single sector - the consumer car market, so there’s still a long way to go before the arguments will die down over online’s ability to engage consumers with their brands, in addition to being an astonishing direct marketing and sale medium- which is undisputed I hasten to add.

Having said that, looking at the outcome of this IAB/Carat Insight research, I wouldn’t mind betting that we’ll see these results mirrored across many, if not all, consumer sectors.

We’ll keep you posted!

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