Rob Frankel - Branding Expert

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One Chance is All You Get.

We get all kinds of clients -- in all type of businesses -- knocking on the door of the Frankel & Anderson cybervault, seeking the Truth about advertising on the net. At one end of the spectrum are the people with megabucks. At the other end are people with white patent leather loafers.

The megabucks crowd view the internet as an adjunct to their traditional media mix: a little print, a little TV or radio -- maybe even a professional endorsement by a recovering professional athlete. The white loafer contingent figure that nothing can stop them, now that their modem has been upgraded to a blazing 33.6 and AOL has flattened their "unlimited use" fee.

Chances are you land somewhere in the middle of the two, wondering which traditional advertising approaches really can port to the internet. If you were with us last week, you got a pretty heavy dose of "why traditional media concepts like frequency don't work on the net". So if you can't rely on constantly pounding your message into the brains of unsuspecting viewers, what CAN you do to make your advertising effective?

You can spend money. And lots of it.

Nah, I'm only kidding. Just seeing if you were awake. Actually, you need to make one realization that totally, completely, absolutely contradicts everything you learned in Advertising 101. You need to accept the fact that since frequency doesn't apply in net advertising, you have ONLY ONE CHANCE to make an impression. And that means your home page has got to hit 'em hard between the eyes the very first time they see it.

No matter how high or low your budget is, nothing is more important than that first strategic, creatively compelling message that pops up on your prospect's desktop. Make no mistake: banners and links are great, but nobody expects to get your story from banners and links. Those are like little bread crumbs, gently enticing your prospects to click their way to your online gingerbread house. No, my friend, they expect to get the whole story from the very first page on your site. And if you confuse them, or turn them off with anything else, they're gone -- and you're sunk. So let me jot down a few observations you may want to tuck away on a floppy:

1. FLAUNT THAT PERSONALITY. Before we go any further, let me say that I'm not talking about loading up your home page with bells and whistles and java scripts. I'm saying that your visitors need to know your personality by the time your GIF files de-interlace on your very first page (any of you brave enough to visit our site know this to be true: one look at the home page and you know we're not your run of the mill kind of agency). If you don't want to be lumped in with the 257,658 other listings in your Yahoo category, dare to be different. Better yet, dare to be yourself. It's the one thing nobody else can duplicate.

2. BE GRAPHICALLY EXPLICIT. If you're going to be different, DON'T use the same clip art everyone else uses. That only conveys your lack of imagination. Custom graphics are a lot less expensive -- and far more distinctive -- than you might think. Fully 99% of visitors who call me from having seen our site ask, "Is that your head bopping around?" Memorable? You bet.

3. BURY THE COPY UNDER A LINK. The net is a graphical environment, not copy intensive. Keep the main points on the home page, but bury the tomes of non-essentials in pages that link off the home page. Nothing says, "Don't read me" better than a screen full of standard text -- unless someone is motivated to click to that page knowing that they want to read a lot.

4. BE CREATIVE, NOT DOPEY. Being creative is fine. Being a dope isn't. Yet this is one of the biggest mistake most people make when designing their home page. Frankel's Rule of Creativity clearly states that "If it doesn't have a strategic reason for being there, lose it." So go through each creative element on your site and ask yourself what strategic purpose is it really serving. If your answer falls anywhere within the "huh?' to "it's not really hurting anything" range, lose it. It's only serving to distract your visitor.

5. I'D RATHER BE CLEAR THAN CLEVER. Finally, realize that we're talking about having ONE CHANCE to communicate your ideas persuasively, so don't clutter up your message with ruses designed to be funny or clever or technically dazzling. Get to the point -- fast -- in an appealing, impactful and most importantly -- memorable -- way.

That way, they may not bookmark your site, but at least you'll have bookmarked their brains.

Rob Frankel

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