Healthcare Marketing: Online is NOT for Branding

Online advertising has proven to be effective as a direct response medium but not so much for brand building. 

More eyeballs are turning to the web.  No one can argue that.  And they are spending more time looking at the web.  So does it make sense to follow those numbers and try to build a brand with internet advertising?  Probably not.  Online advertising is great at direct response.  We all look at the web to find where to buy something or where a business is located or how to contact a business.   That’s why the yellow pages are now on the web and is replacing the printed book.   But is it effective building a brand?

Alan Pearlstein, president of Cross Pixel Media wrote in Ad Age that the “internet sucks as a branding medium.”  And he makes some compelling arguments.  He argues that brand building is an emotional endeavor.  The desire for every brand is to build an emotional connection with the consumer.  Television does that very effectively.  Print can do it.  But not internet advertising.   Because online advertising is limited in size and format, it’s not effective at brand building.   He argues that no advertising medium has proven to be effective at both direct response and branding.  And online is no exception.

It’s important as healthcare marketers, to understand that each advertising medium has their own strengths.   TV creates an emotional impact, magazines provide the environment for stunning images and print provide the opportunity for long copy and storytelling.   Direct mail is great at direct response.

So what are the strengths of online advertising?  It is great at building name recognition.  It has a low cost for exposure.  It reaches a very wide audience.   It’s great for supplementing a campaign with reach and frequency within a target audience.  But branding is not one of its strengths.  Online advertising, limited in size, not very engaging and usually within a cluttered environment is not strong for brand building.  It is complimentary to more emotional and engaging mediums.

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