San Francisco - Today's brand managers must reboot their long-established thinking about marketing and embrace that the web is a completely different medium.
That's part of the message Mitch Joel, president of Twist Image and author of "Six Pixels of Separation," discussed during his luncheon keynote on Monday at the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) Industry Forum at the Fairmont Hotel, here.
Joel said that display ads on the web and email marketing efforts online are holdovers from pre-Internet marketing era.
"Search is the first introduction of a brand" in many cases, Joel noted, and apps such as the SnapTell phone app can tell a consumer where a product is being sold near his or her location, the price and the reviews of the product. Yelp can do the same thing in the hospitality industry.
Technology has removed barriers, so with a 3G or 4G network and an iPad "we are always online. Consumers are more connected."
So will consumers always go with the lowest price? Joel said consumers today are "loyal to a brand due to perceived value."
He pointed out that this connected trend has nothing to do with age, sex or demographics. "More grandparents are on Facebook than teenagers ... because the tools are ubiquitous." He later said that half of YouTube's audience is older than 34.
Today's online experience, Joel said, "is not about idly surfing ... it is about sharing and creating." He quoted a Bazaarvoice survey that noted 75 percent to 85 percent of shoppers today read online reviews before they buy.
Companies have to be part of the communities of consumers they want to attract. It isn't about quantity -- it is the quality of the consumers, and brand managers should want "reviews of their products on their websites" because in surveys "most reviews get 4.3 out of 5 ratings." But as Joel bluntly put it, "Your products can't suck."
Yes, brands should be on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other sites, but you have to figure out why your brand should be there in the first place to see if it has economic value.
Among the final points of advice Joel shared was that companies must accept the web as a fact of life, but that in many cases web marketing efforts must be used together with print and conventional mass market efforts.
"Don't write checks you can't cash," he noted, namely if you are going to be on Facebook, Twitter and other social-networking sites to drive traffic to your home site, "it should be great. You have to deliver that experience."
And marketers "must be publishers too," Joel added, delivering content and explaining to consumers the advantages of their products.