Branding in the Age of Information and Internet
The Emerging Millennial Consumers and Ways of Reaching out to Them
With the advent of the internet and the coming of Web 2.0 and mobile driven browsing, marketers all over the world are realizing and recognizing the importance of using the online medium for branding their products. The new generation of consumers and especially the Millennials or those born after the late 1970s and especially those born in the 1990s and later have a propensity to transact online which means that marketers and companies do need to brand their products in the virtual world if they are to target this demographic.
Further, with the advent of Smartphones and their widespread usage by the Millennials, branding of products online and in the mobile world is no longer a luxury but a necessity owing to the changing shopping habits of the emerging consumers. This is the reason why many brands are being marketed aggressively in the online realm so that they do not miss this consumer base.
For instance, brands like Nike, Adidas, Coke, Pepsi, and GAP that have long had a significant outdoor and print media driven branding strategy have now jumped into the online branding effort as a means of reaching out to this consumer base.
Some Examples of Brands that Migrated to the Virtual World
Of course, it can be said that these brands appeal to the youth and hence, they need to market themselves online. However, the fact that traditional and established brands like Kelloggs are also branding themselves online because many working women and career professionals now do their entire shopping online.
Apart from this, there are brands like Swatch (the Swiss Luxury Watchmaker) that are also turning to the virtual branding which is a bit surprising considering the fact that its consumers are driven by notions of niche marketing rather than mass marketing which the online realm is usually associated with. A possible reason for this can be found in the way most sports events are being telecast live on the internet and considering the deep association that luxury watch makers like Swatch and Rolex have with the sporting world, it is natural that they reach out to their consumers in the virtual and the mobile world.
Talking of the mobile driven advertising, it has long been accepted by the marketers that companies like Apple and Microsoft need to focus exclusively on online branding as their consumer base is almost fully those who frequent the virtual realm for information.
Online Marketing is a Double Edged Sword
Marketing online is a double-edged sword as not only does news travel fast on the online realm but also facts are given a go by in the rush to be the first to Tweet or to post on Facebook. For instance, when a product or a brand is being subjected to negative publicity, which might be factual, or otherwise, nonetheless the news travels fast on the virtual world leading to loss of brand equity.
Further, the marketers cannot control the flow of information in a medium that is essentially driven by the crowd and the swarm and hence, marketers have to be alert to what is being said and written about their brands. Apart from this, marketing on the internet and the Smartphones is subject to another aspect known as swarm intelligence or the wisdom of crowds meaning that herd behavior is common among consumers.
Therefore, once a brand reaches the critical mass of consumers, then it is easy for marketers to break into the consumer base because the swarm or the crowd ensures that the brand is given publicity.
The early adopters and the opinion makers through their reviews ensure that new consumers who are hesitant to try out the product are encouraged to do the same. Of course, as mentioned earlier, this has a negative effect as well and this is the case where negative publicity can travel as fast as the good news.
Indeed, branding on the virtual world is both an opportunity as well as a danger and marketers need to be aware of these effects.
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