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Bolster Brand With Help From the Net

Long before the Internet was introduced, brand managers developed traditional marketing plans that included advertising, public relations, promotion and new products to gain market share and move volume in their points of distribution.

While most marketing objectives have not changed, the available communication tools have evolved over the past few years. Now brands have to determine how to incorporate the Internet, the newest tool, into their marketing plan.

With the advent of the Internet, brand managers scrambled to determine the best use of this fast-growing medium. Executives for many brands thought they had to get involved quickly, so they developed a Web site without clear objectives or strategies. During the development phase, many questions surfaced:

“How do I merchandise my product on the Internet?”

“How can I get mileage out of this new database of consumers?”

“How do I effectively measure the success of my online efforts?”

Despite all the questions and issues surrounding the Internet, brands continued to launch Web sites. They soon found out that the results on the Internet weren’t what they expected. Site traffic was light, and consumers returned in low numbers. Brand managers often were disappointed and disillusioned.

Most marketers now recognize that the Internet is not the complete answer to

their challenges. Instead, the key today

is to successfully

join the offline and online worlds. This click-and-mortar approach can be executed by following these five steps:

Clearly define your brand objectives. These could include building brand awareness and equity; communicating on a one-to-one basis; building a list/database; building an Internet community; increasing site traffic; selling products/services.

Determine the right strategy for your brand. What works in traditional methods may not be right for online communication. Brands must develop the proper strategies that work with the strengths of the Internet – mass reach, simple execution, flexibility, speed – while continuing to implement traditional marketing methods.

Consider partnering with third-party vendors on Internet strategies. Through outsourcing, brands can move quickly to extend their offline marketing plan to the online world. Several types of third-party sites offer solutions to the click-and-mortar strategy. Coupon sites, point sites and sampling sites offer a variety of benefits to brands. The key is to pick the sites that best support the brand strategy.

Develop an action plan. The next step is to put together an action plan that can be evaluated. Make sure that the plan includes realistic, measurable goals.

Test and refine. Testing and refining is key. After results have been analyzed and key issues have been resolved, a brand can apply the right strategy online and offline. Testing in this evolving medium is vital to the future success of any program. The Internet provides an easy way to make changes, retest and roll out programs.

After completing these steps, you should know the right click-and-mortar strategy. With the right research, foresight and tools, brand managers can develop innovative programs that make the Internet an effective element in your marketing portfolio.

Sue Klug is president and chief marketing officer of Catalina Marketing Solutions, St. Petersburg, FL.

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