Just read an article by Jeff Weitzman entitled “Tune up engagement marketing” on Adotas. This has to be one of the most intelligent synopsises of the digital advertising space I have read in a long time.

Engagement is better thought of as a cycle, a series of touchpoints designed to create engagement with a brand in order to drive a purchase over and over again, each time in a more meaningful and valuable way to both brand and consumer. Too often, we marketers focus on the sexy, creative part of the process and lose sight of the bottom line.

I totally agree with this concept and feel our industry in transfixed in trying to justify their own practices then truly becoming self-critical against the data evidence revealing consumer behaviour online. This is not true of everyone, just that there is a key distinction between a designer and a marketer that is not always evident within ‘digital’ agencies that are often tasked with both. It reveals a deep immaturity in the digital space.

By that I mean the need to create a “brand website”. It is this floor in our thinking that causes all advertising to be taking the consumer somewhere to have fulfilment of the experience. Other media seeks engage the consumer where they are on the display device they are in front of, yet digital expects a transitionary path to no-man’s-land which is counter-culture to consumer wishes, and proven by appalling CTR.

Not everyone will recreate Las Vegas onlineI have said before, I wouldn’t build a car showroom in middle of dessert and then think afterwards how do I get people there? I build a showroom on the high street… It is location, location, location!!

We have got to get better at delivering brand messages, changing mindsets, producing conversions in situation on a page against the content where the user is.

And that means agencies have got to get out of mindset of making money building micro sites that few ever visit and instead utilise their creativity and budgets in building experiences where the people are and give them the tools to tear-and-share to create an up swell of brand advocacy through the plethora of social networks.

Once you start with that thinking, you move back into the realms of how do we enable consumers to become excited and engage with brands where they are, how do we facilitate them to research other information, how do we in turn sequence messages to help lead them through this cycle of conversion, how do we justify and measure this activity..?

But alas, I will still be answering emails like “How much does a digital Branding campaign increase site traffic? Am looking for an averages like ‘large consumer brand spent $XXMM and saw XX traffic to a unique microsite’.”

My response, as always, will take the following line:

This is an old agency misnomer of hoping we will find a killer format with high CTR that justifies an invoice for the microsite which is neither in the clients nor consumers interest, as shown by low industry CTR overall. The only person this thinking serves is the web designer’s ego – unfortunately not the marketers.

If we wish to truly do branding online, the focus is how do we reach people and change their opinions and an external site is a VERY small aspect of this to support an overall strategy.

If we insist on using a site for branding, then the advert itself should be about driving response and click thru. The only averages we will find are standard CTR and it would seem a better call to action in an ad drives better CTR. But the advert in and of itself can only loosely be termed a ‘branding’ campaign.

If already a long way down the road in site development, then better to think how can we re-purpose all the beautiful creative work that has been done and get people to interact where they are. Then how can we measure this like ‘how people spend X minutes playing, how interactivity strikes emotional chords that can changes brand favourability’ – knowing that a lot more people will touch ads to trigger some kind of creative rewards then actually click on them.

This in turn will make you look more fantastic to clients.

But next time, the question how can we motivate people where they are from the outset will inevitably see sites and banners taking a very different development path…

My presentation about online branding with banners can be downloaded here.