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Four Dimensions of Web Presence


Do you ever feel a little overwhelmed with the sheer number of places your brands needs to be online? If so, stay tuned. Because today I’m going to share a simple way to chunk down all those places  into a few simple categories. My objective is to make all those touch points much easier for you to identify and to work with.


In the 1950’s Neil Borden at Harvard University introduced the idea of the marketing mix. It was his attempt to catalog all the factors a marketer had at his or her disposal to generate demand in the market. The original mix had over a dozen factors. By his own admission, this list was too long for marketers to use as a day-to-day mental checklist. Recognizing this limitation, another academic, Edmund Jerome McCarthy from Michigan State University took Borden’s core idea and consolidated Borden’s mix into four categories of elements that became known as the 4Ps: Product, Price, Place and Promotion.


The way that marketers use these factors has changed radically over the years, but Borden’s principle — and McCarthy’s condensation of it — still hold. While many people define marketing with a narrow focus on promotion, it’s important to remember that a true marketer has influence over all four Ps and uses them all in a coordinated fashion to stimulate demand for his brand in the market.


Place is perhaps the least sexy of the 4Ps. It refers to the geographies and locations where prospects can access the product. Back in Professor McCarthy’s days, Place was largely domestic and limited to retail outlets, door-to-door salesmen, vending machines or mail order. Today, these places have been augmented with thousands of virtual places online where consumer from anywhere in the world can go to access brands — whether to make a purchase or simply to learn more. With so many places for consumers to gain access to brands, it can be difficult for online marketers to get their heads around all the possibilities. So I’ve found it useful to chunk all these access points down into 4 types of places that the online marketer should be sure to consider when building a unified web presence. I’ve used a real estate analogy to label these four dimensions. Let’s go through them.


First we have owned assets. These are digital assets the company owns and fully controls like corporate sites, e-commerce sites, email marketing databases, apps, online games — that sort of thing.


Next are Rented Assets. These are places where a company has created a presence but does not own or completely control the location. Places like: Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.


Third, we have Visited Assets. These are places that a company doesn’t own or rent space from, but merely visits and participates. Like a blog where the brand comments on a post; a podcast where a brand representative is interviewed; or a forum where the brand joins a conversation.


And the fourth dimension is Offline. These are real-world places that are essential to both reinforcing online messaging and/or driving traffic to the web, like: in-store merchandising; advertising in traditional media; sampling activities;  live events and sponsorships or direct mail.


This matters because each of these dimensions has its own strengths and weaknesses with regard to your brand’s online marketing. The reason you want to keep them all in mind is that you’ll have a more effective online presence if your brand is represented in each dimension and if all four are choreographed to work together towards your online marketing objectives.


Try to find a good balance between these four dimensions and ensure each is communicating the same brand profile, personality and values.


Owned assets like the brand’s website always seem most important to companies and typically get the most attention and budget. But remember, these days they are often the last place prospects who are interested in your brand will go to learn about it. And if the other dimensions aren’t managed properly, then there’s a good chance your prospect will never even make it this far. This should influence the way that the other dimensions are budgeted and prioritized in relation to your main website.


Rented assets like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are no longer optional for many brands because their prospects and customers simply expect them to be there. But simply being there is no longer enough. Make sure you keep these assets up to date with clear objectives, measurement routines and regular assessments for each.


Frequently overlooked, visited third-party assets like forums or review sites probably have the most influence when it comes to shaping consumer perceptions. This is where proactive online networking comes into play, requiring a skilled maven with good judgement. The best way to know where to visit is to engage in buzz monitoring program where you constantly scan the web for mentions of your brand or relevant key words.


Visited third-party assets like forums and review sites are frequently overlooked but probably have the most influence when it comes to shaping consumers’ perceptions. This is where proactive online networking comes into play. This requires a lot of tact, so you’ll need a skilled maven with good judgement. The best way to know where to visit is to use buzz monitoring software where you constantly scan the web for mentions of your brand or relevant keywords.


Many brands lead one life online and completely separate life offline. That’s a lose-lose proposition. And imagine what it looks like to the prospect who lives with one foot in both worlds 24-7. Offline activities are one of the best — yet most under-utilised — ways to bolster online performance. If nothing else, use your offline channels to drive people online. And I don’t mean including a URL at the bottom of the page or end of the spot. I’m talking about making it the purpose of the ad or spot to get the prospect online where you can hold on to them and build a relationship.


So to sum up, you have four dimensions to consider when developing your brand’s online presence. Make sure you are using each and that your activities are coordinated across all four dimensions in line with your brand strategy and marketing objectives.


Remember, use it or lose it. If you don’t put this to use within 48 hours, it will self destruct.


Good luck.

Like this post? You'll find more marketing insights in my new book: International Brand Strategy: A guide to achieving global brand growth, now available from booksellers globally. Order your copy here.