Top 10 trends: What's hot in marketing on the Web?

The top ten trends of marketing on the web.
Written by Mindy Charski, Contributor

1. Branding - free personalized Internet tools

Many companies are offering branded e-mail, instant messaging and Web surfing tools to affinity groups. By offering instant messaging, e-mail and an online calendar, Black Entertainment Television can extend its brand while "facilitating the continued development and growth of the BET.com online community," says Scott Mills, the site's chief operating officer. Other sites offering personalization tools include shoe manufacturer Vans and MotoWorld.com, a site for motorcycle sports enthusiasts.

2. Contextual commerce

Trade magazines aren't the only ones that can offer advertisers a targeted audience. Net content providers can do the same, says Dan Janal, author of Dan Janal's Guide to Marketing on the Internet. For example, he says, readers interested in a story about hurricanes in Florida would like to see products they would need if disaster hit their area - such as ponchos and flashlights. Manufacturers are able to target online consumers who have defined their interests, and Web site owners have the transaction take place on their site. "It's the next logical step after click-per-transactions," Janal says. The catch: Delicacy is necessary to maintain editorial integrity when content gets too close to sales. Pop2it and VastVideo are among the companies enabling contextual commerce.

3. Inserted streaming media ads

As streaming media becomes more prevalent on the Web, so will inserted ads. IBeam Broadcasting, which streams content for 225 providers including AtomFilms and MSNBC, has streamed more than 15 million ads over its network since launching its On-Target ad insertion program. Most ads that accompany streams today run before a broadcast, and aren't targeted. "In real life, you couldn't support a half-hour show with 30 seconds of ads in the beginning," says Jim Pavilack, president of Hiwire, which streams media. EYada.com, an original online radio show, uses its on-air personalities to bring attention to inserted ads, a technique often used in the traditional radio world by Howard Stern. "We have a high click-through rate [for the ads], and it's because we are more interactive with the audience than a one-dimensional site that just puts banner ads up," says Dave Bialek, vice president of sales at eYada.

4. Go wireless

Plan for wireless. Ovum, a research company, estimates worldwide spending on mobile Internet advertising to be $13 million, with most of that occurring in Japan and Scandinavia. The U.S. accounts for only one-third of that right now, and it will likely stay that way until mobile advertising hits critical mass in 2002 or 2003, according to Ovum's forecasts. By 2005, however, wireless advertising could become a $16.4 billion market. The Wireless Advertising Association is creating guidelines in preparation and its chairman, Tim DePriest at AdForce, is being asked to speak at wireless conferences galore. He adds that at a recent meeting of companies under the CMGI umbrella, nearly all said they are preparing for the wireless boom.

5. Guerilla marketing

"We want to be where people are thinking about how weather will be impacting their daily lives," says Alex Kaminsky, vice president of marketing at Weather.com - so the company is integrating guerilla techniques into it marketing mix. The online component of The Weather Channel network has delivered its messages on items such as plastic bags, which read "You see a dry cleaning bag - we see a poncho." When Evite, on online community, wanted to reach its target audience - well-heeled Internet users, 25 to 34 years old, with household incomes of more than $50,000, who live in cosmopolitan areas - it turned to bars in seven cities. The Evite brand decorated coasters and barware.

6. Partnership with an offline brand that shares your demographics

Interesting combinations are appearing everywhere: Dough-Net, which enables kids to shop online with money their parents have put into an account, has launched a back-to-school promotion with Hawaiian Punch. Likewise, Travelocity.com and clothier Banana Republic have partnered in a campaign. Travelocity now has its brand and a promotion featured in the dressing rooms and at counters of 320 Banana Republic stores; in exchange, Banana Republic's brand is well-positioned on Travelocity's site. "We get the halo effect of being associated with a well-recognized, well-trusted brand, and they get the halo effect of being associated with a top travel brand on the Internet," says Michael Stacy, senior vice president of marketing at Travelocity.

7. Viral marketing

Entertainment companies in particular are discovering that viral marketing, which boils down to one person's telling another about a product or service, can be a powerful way to acquire new customers. It's worked well for humor sites DebsFunPages and PassThisOn.com. Likewise, free e-mail services such as Hotmail and Yahoo! continue to gain new members by stamping their brand on the bottom of every outgoing e-mail. Gizmoz, a New York company, offers affinity groups such as MTV a marketing solution to track and establish relationships with people interested in music. A Gizmo is an interactive "container" full of text, video and audio that can be easily mailed to friends. MTV could put one up on its site, track the Gizmo's movement and then try to establish an opt-in relationship with the recipients. "Gizmoz have to be funny, interesting, valuable and so precise they generate passion with the end user to send it to friends," says Eyal Gever, the company's chief executive.

8. Get creative with e-mail

Forrester Research predicts that 20 percent of marketing spending will be on interactive advertising in 2004. Oracle, Toyota and Viacom are among the companies that have hired MindArrow Systems of Aliso Viejo, Calif., to create interactive ads to be e-mailed to opt-in users to promote events or products. One recent e-commercial for the Toyota Celica included video as well as links that allow users to request a brochure, send the ad to a friend or go to Toyota's Web site. "Not only are the ads more engaging, but we can track, in real-time, whether the person forwarded it, clicked on the site or wanted more information," says Mike Pennell, vice president of marketing at MindArrow.

9. Sponsorship

Honkworm International, an online entertainment firm, is among those experimenting with the sponsorship model. Budweiser beer has appeared in the frames of Fishbar, one of the site's most popular cartoons, which stars talking fish. Likewise, Taco Bell recently sponsored the video poker area of game site Pogo.com. "The companies can say, 'We're your friend and we're bringing this game to you,' and that really does make an impression on people," says Pogo spokesman Garth Chouteau.

10. Advertainment

Increased broadband adoption will entice commerce sites to create entertaining content that drives users to a site, keeps them there and promotes a product. K-Swiss and Mattel's Hot Wheels unit are among the companies experimenting with fun, interactive content. Also, Eastman Kodak has used Second Story to create shows for its site that interest amateur and professional filmmakers, but don't actually promote the product. "A cynical marketing person would say television shows are a mechanism to get people to watch advertising, and the Web is evolving in a similar way," says Eric Rosenfeld, director of business at Second Story. One creation Kodak uses features a man driving cross-country while capturing every mile of his voyage on film.

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