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Offline brands in an online world

12.06.2008
As e-commerce becomes more common, traditional bricks-and-mortar companies making the move offer online shopping facilities must recognise the perceived consistency between their offline and their online presence if they are to remain competitive. That is the conclusion drawn by researchers at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland writing in the International Journal of Internet Marketing and Advertising.

Brigitte Mueller, an Assistant Professor in Marketing at the HEC Faculty of Business and Economics at Lausanne, first asks whether consistency between a company's brand image and its website image matter. She has examined how the perception of consistency or otherwise affects consumers attitudes to brand and has found that a high degree of consistency between different brand elements and the offline aspects of a company can create higher levels of awareness as well as stronger and more favourable brand associations.

With the rapid expansion of the internet and more specifically the world-wide web that took place in the 1990s, countless conventional companies endeavoured to jump on the bandwagon and created their own websites. Initially, there were two prevailing strategies that emerged, Mueller explains. Some companies transposed their complete brand with its corresponding name, image and values to their new website. Others, however, created an entirely new brand name to exist on the net, perhaps in an effort to either justify their web presence or to capitalise on the novelty and trendiness of the web.

Unfortunately for many of those companies that chose this latter, online rebranding, option. Being consistent with the core values and the visual identity of the brand has turned out to be fundamental in order to maintain coherent communications between company and consumer online and offline.

"For many brands, a website is an important point of contact with consumers," she explains. "It is therefore a good mediator of brand values, reaching a large number of consumers." Mueller's research supports the notion that companies can provide information, offer additional services to customers, and undertake customer relationships management, as well as attract new customers. However, consumers exposed to a website inconsistent with a familiar offline brand can lead to the emergence of negative brand attitudes and ultimately lead, not only to a loss of customers on the website but a loss of brand loyalty offline too.

She points out that some brands did not adapt to a web presence in their traditional form and the transition to online presence worked only when those brands were redesigned because the products and services themselves were inconsistent with the innovative and technological image of the new media.

"A website should not only be designed to interact with customers, but also with the firm's other communications. This means that a website has to reflect the core values of a brand, in order to induce positive brand associations," concludes Mueller. That seems to work best when there is offline to online brand consistency.

Albert Ang | alfa
Further information:
http://www.inderscience.com

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