Art & Commerce: F19A&C24.gue

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In WWF lore, there is a takedown known as “The Piledriver.” Leaving its mechanics to the imagination, let’s just say it appears to induce exquisite pain. Which is why so many of my creative colleagues fantasize using it on the next e-business prospect who says, “We’re going to spend the next few months (pregnant pause) building brand.”
Doubtless the good folks at Pepsi, IBM and Nike will be glad to know that otherwise intelligent people have concluded that the term “short-term brand building” isn’t entirely oxymoronic. Well, pardon me as I dare a heresy made all the worse by the recent flight of capital from the dot-com markets: what if all those entrepreneurs have a point? Still. Ladies and gentlemen (drum roll, please), we turn your eyes to center ring to see a new beast roaming the landscape called the “ibrand.” And no, the “i” doesn’t stand for idiotic or insane. It’s shorthand for Internet, immediate and, most critically, interim.
While the ibrand may attend the same church as its elder brother, it sits in a decidedly different pew. For example, the central foundation of a brand is trust. By lowering barriers to purchase or adding velocity to the purchase intent, companies add cachet to their products and long-term shareholder value to their bottom line.
By contrast, the ibrand reflects a wildly different corporate wish list. Securing financing. Speeding the cycle time to the IPO. Whatever. It all adds up to wealth delivered ASAP. What makes an ibrand a winner is that ephemeral quality called buzz. And let’s be honest: Buzz moves you way faster, if not more dependably, than slow and plodding trust. Of course, the differences between brand and ibrand aren’t limited to their underpinnings. A brand takes time and money–lots of it. An ibrand, armed with a solid product and brilliant advertising, can happen in a relative click of the mouse. A brand lets you dominate. An ibrand lets you survive long enough to take your shot.
Now, friends, do not damn me as a lily-livered, cave-in artist when I say that interest in an ibrand is not unreasonable if the client is honest enough to admit to short-term goals and smart enough to plan for the long-term transition to brand. They’re out there, as witnessed by a recent Forrester Research study showing 86 percent of dot-com retailers putting “increased brand awareness” among their top-three priorities. Not to mention the pleasure of seeing some of the best technology-related advertising since, uh, 1984.
Creatively speaking, the ibrand isn’t bad news if–and this is a big if–we all agree that creating buzz is an objective carrying its own imperatives. It takes a huge advertising idea rooted in the non-technological. It also requires that clients swallow the tough love proposition that buzz-building spots carry a vastly stripped-down message load. Advertising delivers the intriguing thrills; the Web site does the heavy lifting.
Does all this fly in the face of recent stock-market events? Well, aside from maybe a little payback on the hubris front, I’d argue no. While the market may be executing The Piledriver on companies that confuse an ibrand for a brand; in the long term, it will reward those that understand the differences–and how, and when, to build both.