As the Internet continues to hardwire itself into the lives of most Americans, the importance of electronic marketing grows exponentially. Any new venture that doesn’t incorporate the need for Web marketing, or e-branding, into its business model doesn’t have much chance of success.
Now, Indiana University Northwest Professor of Marketing Subir Bandyopadhyay, Ph.D., has edited the first book devoted specifically to e-branding topics. "Contemporary Research in E-Branding" (Information Science Reference, 2009) gathers current research in the field in chapters written by contributors from 13 countries, including the United States, Spain, India, Taiwan, Germany, Canada, and Turkey, among others. Topics covered include political and corporate e-branding, online consumer loyalty, e-branding in virtual communities, brand Web site positioning, nonlinear pricing in e-commerce, and measuring returns on e-branding investments, among other subjects. The book even has a chapter on customer reactions to offshore outsourcing of customer services.
In "Contemporary Research in E-Branding," Bandyopadhyay has collected the most current and insightful research articles on e-branding for the benefit of scholars as well as corporate managers who may utilize such knowledge as they craft and refine their companies’ online image and services.
“There is hardly any meaningful company that does not have any online presence,” Bandyopadhyay said.
“There are a lot of books on branding, and we know the ways in which you do traditional branding,” he continued. “There is a lot of research in this area, but, as yet, there hadn’t been a book that put together everything. If you wanted to know the distinguishing characteristics of e-branding, there were a lot of papers but no books. That is essentially the positioning of this book.”
The international mix of authors represented in the book reflects the global reach of the topic, he said.
“There is no national boundary on e-branding,” Bandyopadhyay said. “There are a lot of good things happening in different parts of the world. It was a big surprise, the level of (international) activity in this area. I thought everything would be in Silicone Valley and so forth, but I found that in different parts of the world … companies and entrepreneurs are doing wonderful work.”
While e-branding shares certain principles with traditional branding, there are significant differences, according to Bandyopadhyay.
“Branding has been around for a long time, with traditional companies like Proctor & Gamble developing products,” he said. “Branding is essentially (used) to identify and differentiate products. The way that you differentiate is to give it some characteristics and communicate that to the consumers.
“One of the characteristics of online branding is that the corporate brand is the brand. Amazon, for example, is the company, but it also is the brand. Priceline is the company, but also is the brand. This is unlike, say, Proctor & Gamble, which would never market their product as ‘a P&G product.’ Online, many times the company and the brand become inseparable.”
Even most traditional companies today maintain some level of online presence, Bandyopadhyay said, although they may not transact business over the Internet. But while traditional branding usually involves consumer products, e-branding many times is used to promote e-service companies like Amazon and Priceline.
“At the very basic level, you may have an informational presence,” he said. “You may not sell anything (online), but you provide information about your company. Next comes the one that we call the ‘transactional presence.’ This means that you are an offline, traditional company, but now you are giving people the option to buy products online.
“The final stage would be companies that do not even bother with a traditional business,” Bandyopadhyay concluded. “It was born in the online world – the Amazons and Pricelines of the world. They don’t have any offline presence.”
Contemporary Research in E-Branding also addresses political e-branding of the type seen in the 2008 presidential election. Bandyopadhyay noted that President-elect Barack Obama’s success came thanks in part to an online strategy first employed by 2004 Democratic contender Howard Dean.
“He started out with the initial concept, but when it came to the election … many people did not come to the voting booths to vote for him,” he said. “Obama kind of perfected that process. So that is one example where e-branding met political branding.”
Bandyopadhyay said the editorial process for his book took about two years from conception to final proof. The articles were peer reviewed through a double-blind process in which the reviewers did not know who the authors are and the authors did not know the names of their reviewers. The IU Northwest professor concluded that editing a book featuring numerous authors is more difficult than writing one.
Bandyopadhyay said he is already considering topics for a follow-up to "Contemporary Research in E-Branding." With the development and uses of technology growing at an accelerated rate, he said, the Internet’s potential for marketers is virtually limitless.
“Because (the Internet) is a tool, the sky is the limit,” he said. “The potential is limited only by your imagination and innovation.”