Online Branding Movement Spills Over to E-Mail

A branding index for e-mail? Dynamic Logic Inc. raised eyebrows earlier this week with the debut of AdIndex Email, a service the company claims measures the branding impact of e-mail.

The service is similar to Dynamic Logic's flagship product, AdIndex, which uses cookies and online surveys to measure the branding effectiveness of online ads, such as banners, buttons, interstitials and streaming video.

Dynamic Logic claims AdIndex Email measures e-mail advertising effectiveness using traditional brand metrics, such as brand preference, brand attributes, usage volume, recommendation intent, brand awareness and message association.

Founded in 1999, Dynamic Logic, New York, gained prominence with research claiming that online advertising has value beyond its ability to draw click throughs. The company uses cookies to track users who have been exposed to ads, but who don't buy, and tabulates correlations between exposures and later behavior, such as a delayed purchase. Dynamic Logic also surveys random samples of ad-exposed users with pop-ups to gauge online ads' impact on other branding metrics.

The company has played a key part in the online ad industry's efforts to convince ad buyers to view online ads as effective branding vehicles.

However, the argument for online ads' ability to brand arose from online ad sellers' need to defend a medium that was losing its luster among media buyers as fewer and fewer Web users clicked on ads.

E-mail suffers from no such stigma, though Nick Nyhan, president of Dynamic Logic, contends that it may do so in the future.

“My fear is that e-mail is going to go through something similar, though not as drastic, which is that e-mail is going to be undervalued because it is going to be solely held to the immediate response metric,” he said. “E-mail's a fantastic direct response tool and it will always be, but I also think it should get credit for the other side [its ability to brand].”

However, rather than waning interest, e-mail's current biggest threat arguably is that it is getting too much attention from marketers, even those not normally associated with traditional direct marketing.

“Anything we can do to associate a better ROI with e-mail will help the industry,” said Jay Schwedelson, corporate vice president, Worldata/Webconnect, Boca Raton, FL. “The problem is that everybody's jumping on the bandwagon and there's a flood in people's inboxes.”

And using traditional branding metrics to bolster e-mail may make things even worse, according to Jeanniey Mullen, chief marketing officer at MindArrow Systems Inc., an Aliso Viejo, CA-based rich media e-mail service provider.

“A number of our clients that focus on branding and brand awareness don't focus on click throughs,” said Mullen who is based in New York. However, she said, these clients focus on e-mail's viral, or pass-along abilities.

“If we turn e-mail into a branding component and use the same techniques that [dictate if] we put it out in front of the consumer's face a number of times, they'll remember the brand, we'll be sending way too many e-mails,” Mullen said.

Schwedelson said this also is evidence that packaged goods firms and other non-direct marketing firms are trying to justify marketing on a medium that may not be right for them.

“If Nabisco called me and said they want to do an e-mail campaign, I'd ask them 'why?'” Schwedelson said. “Major brand marketers that are looking to e-mail as another channel should think twice about their goal. E-mail is not a cost effective brand-marketing channel, especially with open rates going in the [downward] direction they are going.”

However, AdIndex Email is aimed at helping brand marketers determine where e-mail fits in their mix, contends Nyhan.

“I don't think e-mail is appropriate for all brands,” he said. “I think some brand managers built e-mail databases because it was something to do.”

However, he said, not all companies want e-mail to generate response.

“They think they'll incrementally move people toward a certain way of thinking, and thinking is what we measure,” he said.

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