Branding: A Promotional Pay Off

Stephen Yagielowicz

Traffic and Retention are two of the biggest factors in the Web site game, and targeted site branding through products and promotions are one of the main ways it's played. Here are a few examples of how it can be effectively done:

Creativity and repetition are two of the keys to successful branding. Consider for a moment the "Energizer Bunny." This furry little mechanical creature has been beating his drum across our television screens for years. Now the manufacturers don't really expect you to run right out and purchase fresh batteries whenever you see those floppy ears parading back and forth, or hear the sponsor's distinctive "jingle," but the next time you encounter a need for new batteries, what's the first name that will come to mind? That's branding in action.

They say that great minds think alike (GMTA), and Xbiz' latest tidbits prove it: check out the hot new "Jenna" screen saver, Xbiz desktop wallpaper, and WinAmp skin are free for all to download! The desktop wallpaper and WinAmp skin are totally benign graphics, while the (branded) "Jenna" screensaver is seriously tame, and therefore suitable for use on family computers that might have young eyes investigating them. Great job, guys!

I say that great minds think alike in this context, because while these new items were all being developed and posted here at Xbiz, I was actually preparing some photo images for Ayrora's upcoming screensaver and desktop wallpaper collection. I did not know they were doing theirs, and they didn't know that I was working on a similar project at exactly the same moment as I found out about theirs: Like I said, GMTA.

While the idea of creating a unique WinAmp skin did not occur to me, I was actually investigating the development of a customized version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser. Usually found as bundled 'O.E.M.' versions of the software on new PC's, or on corporate Intranets, this modification is essentially the application of a skin with a custom logo plus pre-installed links and "favorites" — a great way to send quality traffic to your best sponsors while making your site easy to return to.

Hard Goods
While branding your site using free (or even additional fee) downloads is a tried and true method of encouraging repeat visits by keeping both your URL and Web site name visible, this marketing technique is fairly limited in its reach. After all, if the prospect is not sitting in front of a computer that has these items installed upon it, he won't be exposed to your intended branding message. Likewise, your audience is limited to those people who are physically exposed to this machine.

To grow beyond the spatial and audience size limitations dictated by typical download content, we need to provide the prospect with products that he or she can take "out on the open road" — and away from home, to the wider audience beyond:

As an extreme example, bumper or window stickers placed on a member's automobile may be seen by thousands of other motorists daily. While I would be cautious about which materials I offered for public display, and would not expect a torrent of new members as a direct result of these attention getting devices, you can bet that a surfer browsing the links over at Persian Kitty would click on one that he saw displayed on his neighbor's bumper.

Mouse pads, calendars, clothing and other 'wearables' plus a few other more "personal" items round out Lady Jag's forthcoming offerings. With the addition of her CD/DVD and VHS videotape content up-sells, her branding efforts will ensure a steady stream of return visits from members who are loyal enough to acquire her products in the first place. Some other cool products are forthcoming as well, but I'll save those for another day.

Getting the Word Out
Finally, there are several "free" things that you should do to enhance your Web site's branding. Among these are ensuring your site's name, logo, and URL appear on every Web page, and that all of your email and message board "sig" or signature files promote it as well.

Using simple scripted solutions such as "recommend us" email forms, "set homepage," and "bookmark us" scripts (voluntary ones only, please!) and even the nifty "Geocities" style lower right hand corner graphic (just like the TV stations do, too!) displaying your logo and hyperlink will all work wonders. Here's the aforementioned "Logo Branding" script, available from the JavaScript Source for those who are interested in it.

While none of these techniques alone will make an amazing, overnight difference in your traffic patterns, the sustained, cumulative results of your efforts will. And that's what branding is about. Click the link below and share some of YOUR favorite branding techniques! ~ Stephen

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