Is Branding A Waste Of Time Online? Do I Stay Or Do I Go....?

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By Guy Levine
on 23/10/09

I read an interesting Digital Marketing related post from Mark Oborn about how long people stay on your site for. The interesting points were that there are no real definitive answers to this question. From the research Mark did, it came out at about 30 seconds. Mark commended that lots of sites have animation and ‘bell and whistles’ which only fuel the my website is better than yours etc, and that text sells.

I kind of agree, and it reminds me where I was at about 12 months ago – but my views have changed...Let me explain.

I was speaking at a conference in London and as normal opened my mouth without thinking, well, I did think but was not scared of sharing my opinion. Basically I said that branding was a load of ‘Boll***s.’ You could have heard a pin drop! I said this because I believed that text sells. Headlines, sub-headlines, calls for action. You know, the kind of thing all the greats like Ogilvy talk about. In fact, In my younger days as a the ‘Digital Dellboy’ (think allright Rodders not computer hardware) I made about 24k in 24 hours from a page with not one graphic. But times change.

Some Interesting Stats

I read somewhere, I think from a Canadian university and a bit of assimilation from me that:

  • A subconscious decision about staying or going is made in 0.3 seconds for males and 0.1 for females (intuition)
  • If they pass the 0.3 second test, you have another 4-6 seconds for deeper reading (apparently figures from Google)
  • On average 50% of people will leave pretty much straight away

These stats combined give us a very short ‘attention’ slot to capture people.

Brand Is Back – In fact some people say it’s never gone, but I have grown up.

If the first tranche of time is 0.3 seconds, or even 30 seconds before people go, I now believe there has to be more than just words on page. I was at a workshop last week where my friend was reviewing people’s business cards. He saw one which was very nice, but said he wouldn’t go because he was to ‘old’ for the place which was a dental practice. He knew decided by just the branding. Free false teeth for life would not have changed his mind. Now, whether that branding gave the right impression is a different story.

So, if 0.3 seconds is true – brand is important. It’s the bits of the site which say:

  • This is the quality of the service
  • This is who we work with
  • This is the kind of prices we charge
  • This is whether we are exclusive or whole of market
  • This is what you are going to get on top of what you are paying for

My child, you can stay on this site because it’s safe, and it fits with your beliefs about yourself!

And the winner is...

Brand + Conversion. Make a site which looks great and is aimed at your target market demographic, then start selling. Can I use the word selling or do I need to spell it se**ing for some peoples comfort! If you don’t have good branding, you might lose people before they have even started!

That could mean Flash logos and imagery are necessary. It does not mean you can start your site with an about us page.

Finally, because its Friday afternoon and I am starting to ramble. The prime example of this is the high street. I make buying decisions before I even walk through the door of a shop. If the product and price look good and attract me, but the shop looks rubbish, I’m not going in. There is a trust, respect and like calculation going on before I even look for something to read or allow myself to be drawn in by an offer.

What do you think?