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It is better
to not be on
the web than
to be on and
not know why

John Sumser

Reality
is more
complex
than
it seems.
John Gall






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Brand Basics I
(December 16, 2002) - 
 

"Brand is the 'f' word of marketing. People swear by it, no one quite understands its significance and everybody would like to think they do it more often than they do" - Mark di Soma

"Success means never letting the competition define you. Instead you have to define yourself based on a point of view you care deeply about." Tom Chappell, Tom's Of Maine

"You can tell how important something is by how frequently and carefully it is monitored." - Albert Einstein

"A brand name is more than a word. It is the beginning of a conversation." Lexicon

"If you can't measure it, you don't understand it." - Albert Einstein

"Brand equity is the sum of all the hearts and minds of every single person that comes into contact with your company." - Christopher Betzter

We've been watching with some fascination as the annual 'awards' for 'best job hunting websites' and 'best products' emerge as they always do in the early part of December. From what we can tell, getting the awards is important to the branding efforts of the companies involved. Standard criteria, results measurement, customer satisfaction and other measurable attributes do not seem to be a part of the process. It's as if the folks from the Zagat guide went to restaurants and gave out their 'stars' for the look and feel of the restaurant and the way that the menu reads without ever eating a meal in the place.

We would never suggest that getting one of the awards is bad for business. Getting in to Weddles, CareerXRoads or the HRE New Products awards is a good thing, a little seal of approval and a shot in the arm for publicity. They are good for internal morale and initial expectation setting for new customers. They are often less expensive than a focused advertising campaign (though we believe that they produce results that are equivalent to the investment). They are at least as good for the award givers as they are for the getters.

For web-based endeavors, all that really matters is traffic, its measurement and refinement. It's impossible for an outsider to tell, with any degree of meaning, how the traffic is interacting with the website. In other words, like restaurants, design and menu content are important but secondary to success. It's the experience of the customer and the volume of customers that matters. Given the fact that a broad measurement of customer experience is prohibitively expensive across hundreds or thousands of sites, from a 'what's really important' perspective, traffic is all that matters.

The awards provide web owners with an interesting sort of traffic (although it's a very small segment). As guides to the terrain, Weddles, CareerXRoads and HRE are far less important than the web guides that refrain from awards but have significantly more traffic. It's simply better for business to have a product review in Job Star or The Riley Guide because more traffic comes through them. An award is good; traffic is better.

That raises an interesting question, of course. The three award givers have print sides in addition to their web offerings. The question is something like "Does print attention matter in a web era?" We think the answer is "less so with each passing day". Clearly, print is virtually irrelevant in the under 30 demographics. Anyone who has seen the piles of unread trade magazines in HR cubicles around the world has got to wonder about the effectiveness of old-style print communications. As we pointed out last week, newspaper circulation and readership are in massive decline.

From our perspective, the most important non-financial measure of the importance of a business is its online traffic. While there are various approaches to transforming traffic into money (or employees when the game is Recruiting), you simply have to have access to the raw materials. At its simplest, traffic is the critical measure in brand strength and therefore, the relative importance of one company versus another. There are important refinements to this idea that we'll cover in tomorrow's piece.

- John Sumser


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