where "word of keystroke" begins

June 18, 1998 -- Brand on the Internet

Transcript of the live chat session that took place Thursday, June 18, 1998. These sessions are normally scheduled for 12 noon-1 PM Eastern Time every Thursday. Please note that the US is now on Daylight Savings Time. So in international terms, we are on at GMT -4 instead of GMT -5.

These sessions are hosted by Richard Seltzer. If you would like to receive email reminders of our chat sessions, simply send a blank email message to or go to and sign up there.

For transcripts of previous sessions and a list of future topics, click here .

For an article on how to make "business chat" work (based on this experience), click here .

Since the chat itself happens at a rapid pace, it's often difficult to note interesting facts in particular URLs as they appear on-line. Here's a place to take a more leisurely look. I've rearranged some of the pieces to try to capture the various threads of discussion (which sometimes get lost in the rush of live chat).

Please send email with your follow-on questions and comments, and suggestions for topics we should focus on in future sessions. So long as the volume of email responses is manageable, I'll post the most pertinent ones here for all to see.

Threads (reconstructed after the fact):

Today's participants


Richard Seltzer -- All -- we'll be starting in about 12 minutes. Today's topic is brand on the Internet. Please introduce yourselves and let us know your interests.

Joe G -- Hi everyone, this is my first time here and i am looking forward to learning a great deal!

Richard Seltzer -- The main topic for today is brand on the Internet. But there are many aspects of that. What is of particular interest to you and why?

Joe G -- I am a first time web designer/marketer from boston. Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Hi - I Bob Zwick - Independent Consultant in Texas. Not sure what branding is or would do for small concerns so I'm here to learn.

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Joe - are you currently doing business on the Web ? Do you have a url ?

Joe G -- I am working on a hastily put together site, one that was designed long ago. We will be launching the new site within a month or so

Sudha Jamthe -- Joe: What is your site about?

Joe G -- Currently not much, we are totally overhauling, and redesigning a real site for an answering service in Massachussetts. The one that is up now is a single page and has about as much web presence and flair as 8-track tapes

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Sudha, Brian and Saul -- Please introduce yourselves and let us know your interests (especially related to brand on the Internet).

bill rhodes -- Hello, let's do some branding!

Sudha Jamthe -- Hi Richard, Welcome back. Hi Richard: I am an Internet Analyst and lead Web-Net User Group. I am changing jobs to start work at BBN from Monday as a Project Manager in Internet Strategic Solutions division.

Richard Seltzer -- Hi, Sudha -- yes, it's been several weeks since we had one of these Thursday chat sessions (I was off speaking in Canada). And also, this feels like a fresh start because for so long we focused on the topic of distance education (which is now it's own separate spin-off chat program at noon on Tuesdays, run by Bob Zwick ( Check for transcripts and details. 

Defining branding on the Internet

Joe G -- Branding is buying placement in engines. I feel rather strongly against branding, it goes against what the net stands for. It goes against the level playing field that the net has created.

Richard Seltzer -- Joe, It's interesting that you think of Internet branding in terms of placing banner ads at search engine sites. That's exactly the kind of thing that I believe is wasteful and unnecessary for small companies. The true meaning of "brand" is what people think of your company -- your reputation, the relationships you have with your customers and the image that prospects have of you before you directly contact them. Graphics and images are just supporting paraphenalia that help in some instances (for large corporations placing many messages in many different vehicles), but are useless in others -- especially on the Internet.

Joe G -- I am in search of the golden key to web success, as we all are. Pretty hard to find though.

Richard Seltzer -- Joe, "Golden key". That would be nice. My suspicion is that there isn't any pass key that fits all doors. Rather every door has a different kind of lock. With regard to brand, I strongly suspect that effective use for a large corporation with an enormous ad budget is far different than for a small startup company. I suspect that small companies -- especially on the Internet -- often waste lots of time and effort mimicking what the big guys do, when it makes no sense in their particular circumstances.

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Richard - would affiliation with renowned organizations or certifications be considered branding ?

Joe G -- Question to the group: is branding the way of the future or is it merely another avenue one can travel?

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- In Texas - branding has a different meaning.

brian -- i am just a working man, do not mind what ranch i work for.

Sudha Jamthe -- Hi Bob! How are you doing? What's the different meaning of branding in Texas?

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- It's mainly put on cows and means - it's mine DON'T touch !

Sudha Jamthe -- Hi Brian: What's your interest in brands?

brian -- i am in between them, you could say.

bill rhodes -- Branding is the way of the future for corporations. It seems they spend most of their time talking about it right now. Probably because most of them have been caught sitting by the digital age, and are worried they will lose something, or lose out.

Sudha Jamthe -- As for brands: I am interesting in learning how brand building on the web is different from real world and can brands be transferred to the web? I think the real success stories of the web we hear about all go about building a brand . eg, Yahoo, are valued mostly for their brand value.

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- In reference to Sudha's question about whether current brands would transfer to the WEB. Why would a brand like CocaCola not transfer to the WEB ? Those brands have been implanted in our sub-consciences and can't be removed. The question should be, Is the WEB a new medium for Brand building. I believe as the Internet becomes the default communication medium of the world, that it will be the primary place to build a brand.

Richard Seltzer -- Bob -- I agree that large corporations, with brands that have been established over many years through heavy investment in other media, can easily transfer their brand to the Web. For them, the Internet is just another communication medium. But for Internet companies, the strategy for growth can and should be very different -- starting with direct contact with the customer (CocaCola doesn't have that luxury), and learning from customers and prospects before launching any brand building effort.

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Richard - I think that large corps. will have a more difficult time building a brand on the Internet because of the choice to click and the intelligence of the audience. No more "boob tube" push technology.

Richard Seltzer -- Sudha -- I believe that Yahoo and Amazon are exceptions. Yes, we have heard of them. Yes, they have established brand recognition very quickly and very well. But I believe that most small companies would be ill-advised to try to follow in their footsteps.

Sudha Jamthe -- Richard: Altavista is a classic example of an Internet brand. Aren't they extending that brand to other related products. Can you share your ideas about how this became a success?

Richard Seltzer -- Sudha, my feeling is that "AltaVista" as a brand was an afterthought. First, they provided a valuable/useful free service that millions of people used. Those folks had all kinds of warm and fuzzy feelings about that Web site and that service -- which had nothing to do with the name or graphics. Once this reputation was established, the company (Digital) tried to get some marketing benefit from it by extending that name to a set of Internet software products and trademarking the name and designing unique graphics. The real value came from the service itself. That was the true brand (regardless of what they might have decided to call it.)

Sudha Jamthe -- Richard: Thanks. Yes, I agree Altavista grew because of its value. I see brand building as building a name/logo around a value and position in in the customers mind. The value could be simple consistency, reliability etc. Maybe We need to define to establish a common definition for brand on the internet here. Why companies do it? At what costs? Also, I am curious to hear more about why you think small internet companies should not attempt to build brands?

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Sudha - I second your question about why brand. A small enterprise would do better trying to build a community than brand for the globe.

Richard Seltzer -- Bob -- "community." Right on. That's what I was trying to get it.

Sudha Jamthe -- Bob: Are you saying companies should build a brand, but focus on a local community of customers? I know of a local company here called "" which is seen on flyers, ads, and on the walls of all their customers. They focus on Massachussets (MA) customers and help them get online with a web site. Is this brand building?

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Su - I'm saying that brand, in my opinion, is a goal for giant corporations that have $$$ & human resouces. It would be hard for a small company to brand with competition in the Web in the 10's of millions.

Richard Seltzer -- Bob -- Amen. Small startups should focus on customers -- on providing excellent service and learning all they can from feedback and interactions. If and when their business crystalizes and it becomes clear who the audience is and what the products/services is, then it might make sense to invest in branding activities. But not before...

Sudha Jamthe -- Bob: I agree it takes marketing muscle to build a brand the traditional way and larger corporations with $$$ have an advantage. But I think that large corporations who get onto the web are threatened by small new Internet startups as they might offer the same value on the net. So the question is whether a large existing brand can transfer to the web? Prof. Venkatraman of Boston Univ. does some research on this topic. Finance sites such as are examples of this threat.

Joe G -- A question to the group: Does creating a "brand" on the internet pose a greater challenge than in past meduims, ie print, radio, tv. Or because of its closely woven community is it easier to get the word out on the net???

Richard Seltzer -- Sudha, I believe that for large corporations, the role of "brand" is to tie together the various messages that they present through numerous communication vehicles. In their case, logos and consistent graphic style are important to help customers and prospects remember all these messages/images in a way that they reinforce one another. And for them, the Internet is just another communication vehicle. For a small company, doing business solely on the Internet or mainly there, I don't think there is any need for that kind of approach. I believe that the real value comes from direct contact with the customer, from serving your audience well. You don't need banner ads, you don't need any graphics, even. You are far better off using the content of your site (well indexed at search engines) to drive traffic to your site. 

What does it take for a small company to market a Web site?

Richard Seltzer -- Before I forget, here's a question from Mike Spinney (who can't join us today:
"While the Internet, in theory, levels the proverbial playing field for businesses of all sizes, the resources it takes to 'brand' a site, create a destination site, or otherwise market a web site to attract profitable traffic, are not at par. What, in the experience of those in attendance, has represented the best choice for (cost) effective branding methods, and could I have some examples of small companies that have proven these out?"
You can reach Mike directly at He hopes to gather some information for use in a monthly column he writes for Interface.

Sudha Jamthe -- Richard: That's a very neat question from Mike Spinney. Obviously, I am a believer of brand building on the net. One example that comes to mind of a success story is It was started by a student who created a program to submit to many search engines and has started as a company to offer the same service with more value additions. Another one is cdnow, they were one of the first companies who made money on the web, selling CDs on the wed from their basement. Check Inc Magazine June 96 issue for their cover story. I see small companies can start building a brand by choosing the right URL for their site and brand building would help publicize their site. It grows beyond a site to a brand if people can associate something consistent with the name such as service, value of the core product etc.

Richard Seltzer -- Sudha -- I don't believe that the name makes much difference. In the case of Submit-It, they built their business through a referral program -- offering cash for hyperlinks that bring customers to their site. And CDNow likewise has an associates program, that provides credit (and perhaps now cash too) when people clicking from your associate site go to CDNow and actually buy. When they got big enough to afford it and for it to make sense, they also started doing banner ads and ads in other media. Then brand became an issue.

Sudha Jamthe -- Richard: That's interesting. You are suggesting that you create a value first and then build a brand later if you choose to. Do we have an example of someone who started with brand building right away?

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- EggHead was an instant success and transformed its national retail business to an Internet Only business overnight. I don't recognize any brand, but news and associate referral is what brought my attention to them.

Richard Seltzer -- Sudha -- My guess is that many companies invest unnecessarily in the paraphenalia of brand before they have established a reputation. I think that is a mistake. The paraphenalia merely help to reinforce the reputation. Without the reputation, the investment is wasted (or could even produce negative effects). I know that AltaVista started just as a service, a pilot project from the research labs, and the "branding" happened after the fact. I presume that it's possible to start branding right away if you have an enormous budget and a sure winner of a product. But for me one of the main attractions of the Internet is the fact that you can get started on a shoestring and build an audience/community, and modify your initial plans quickly in response to customer/audience needs, and gradually build, perhaps eventually deciding to create a "brand."

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Richard - those companies like AltaVista, Yahoo, and TUCOWS have a brand as a RESULT of service and popularity which gives them millions of hits a day. I think brand is an unrealistic "goal" , but a welcome result if you deserve it. Setting out with brand as a goal would deplete most small concerns resources in a hurry and defeat the real purpose of their business.

Richard Seltzer -- All -- I firmly believe in the value of content as opposed to image. A site with lots of useful content that is well indexed at search engines, will be found by people searching for those kinds of things. The limited resources of small, startup companies should be focused on developing content and providing service. Forget the graphics and the "image building". Build the reality first. Over time, get a clearer notion of what that reality is. Then, when you can afford it, and when you are ready for expansion, promote the hell out of that reality. Don't waste your time promoting vaporware on the Internet. 

Real Name at AltaVista

Joe G -- my apologies, i was under the impression that we were discussing the "branding" that alta vista has just started with "", a search engine where placement is not determined by content, but by paying a predetermined price to be listed.

Sudha Jamthe -- Joe: Now that you mentioned it, what do you think about 'Real Name' on Altavista? There is no basic free service but everything starts with a $40 subscription. But, it has the advantage of placing the real name at the top of AltaVista search results. Have you tried it?

Joe G -- I have sampled what it has to offer, and for the larger companies with great name recognition i don't mind it that much. what worries me is the future of it. will someone one day be able to lay out a bunch of cash and get a #1 listing for an entire niche, that is what scares me

Richard Seltzer -- Joe and Sudha, please tell me more about "Real Name" at AltaVista. I haven't seen it, and when I just connected to AltaVista, I couldn't see that there. Might it perhaps have been a banner ad that you saw there?

bill rhodes -- No, it is there, first entry. Not a banner. It says something like realnames(sm)

Joe G -- Richard: Real Name is a new service just launched by alta vista. It allows a company to register and be ranked by paying a fee to do so. It also seems to cut out alot of the noise when searching for a common name website, ie when you search for perl you get their site, not 1000 other places with that as a keyword that ranked above the particular site you were looking for.

Richard Seltzer -- Joe, I still don't see anything about it at their Web site. Where does one go to sign up? And how does one do a search of that kind. Thanks.

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Richard - I believe Real Name is displayed at the top of every search at AltaVista now.

Sudha Jamthe -- Real Name from Altavista is a service which can associate a simple English name to your site. You need to get a annual subscription to sign up for a real name. One can search for sites by their 'real name' by getting a software from 'real name service' and adding it to your browser. I haven't seen anyone with a 'real name'. Its a cool concept if it gathers critical mass.

JoeG -- sorry I took so long. the domain is

Richard Seltzer -- Bob -- Thanks for the explanation. You have to do a search before you see anything about Real Name. Then when you click on that you get connected to another company/another Web site. This is not an AltaVista service. The info you submit does not go into the AltaVista index (as far as I can tell). It goes into a database that Real Name is building. There is no way that you can buy position in searches at AltaVista.

Sudha Jamthe -- Bob, Richard: I came across real names from an AltaVista Search and thought it was from AltaVista too as it appears as the first link of any AltaVista search.

Richard Seltzer -- Sudha -- regarding Real Name, take another look. They do not appear as a numbered item in the list of matches. Rather, the hyperlinks are in a few text lines before the list begins.

Richard Seltzer [NB -- this was written after the chat session, when I had had a chance to check further into the Real Name service] -- Apparently, Real Name is a new service that complements AltaVista's full-text search. The service is provided by Centraal Corporation, which maintains a separate database of company names and trademarks. For a fee of (I believe) $40 per year, you can register your company. Once you are registered, if someone does a search for your registered name and then clicks on the Real Name link at the top of the match list, that person will go straight to your home page. You can register your company and your company's trade names, but not someone else's. You also can't buy common terms. This isn't placement for a fee. Rather it provides users with a handy way to find corporate Web sites (which sometimes isn't easy with the basic AltaVista Search service). To get a sense of the convenience of this service to the user, search for United Airlines and then for Titanic. In both cases, the raw search provides numerous matches and the ones at the top are not the corporation or the movie. Clicking on the Real Name link takes you right to the official site for each. NB -- this is not a case of "paying for placement." People who search for the name that you registered (and had the right to register), and who click on Real Name, don't get another list of matches; they go straight to your site.


Sudha Jamthe -- Richard and All: I have to go now, I'll catch up with the transcripts and 'see you' next week.
Hope this topic will continue into next week. Bye,

brian -- sudha had to go; i got to be going too, thank you.

Richard Seltzer -- All, would you like to continue this topic next week? I believe that there are some promising directions that we haven't been able to explore fully this week, and also I'd like to be able to better promote it, drawing a broader more diverse set of participants for next week. Does that make sense to you?

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Richard - sounds good to me. Be sure to give us some hints as to the other directions in your announcement. See you next week. Bob Zwick 
Cottage Micro Services 103 Vinyard Drive, Waxahachie, TX 75167 PH: (972) 435-2446 ...... ICQ 779704 *Web Hosting*Design*Programming*Network Consulting & Service*

Richard Seltzer -- As usual, I'll post an edited transcript of this session in a few days at I'll also post some related thoughts of mine in my recently revived newsletter Internet-on-a-Disk Please send your followup thoughts and comments for possible inclusion with the transcript.

Richard Seltzer -- All -- before you sign off, please post your email address and URL (don't presume that the software will have caught it). Thanks very much for joining us this week. Please come again next Thursday, and please spread the word. (Looks like we will continue with "branding.") 


Essential Business Tactics for the Net by Larry Chase

Date: Tue, 30 Jun 1998 10:18:05 -0700

From: Internet News Bureau <>

CONTACT: Larry Chase, 212-876-1096,,

"Essential Business Tactics for the Net" Kicks Off Release by Offering Free Chapter at

New Book Shows How to Use the Net to Run Faster, Cheaper, Smarter Inside Your Firm, and Communicate More Effectively With Those Outside Your Company

NEW YORK, NY - June 30, 1998 (INB) -- This week marks the release of "Essential Business Tactics for the Net" by Larry Chase, Publisher of Web Digest For Marketers and Internet Consultant, Speaker and Author. "More than a 'how-to' book, it's a 'why-bother' book as well," Chase remarked at a book signing event held at Barnes & Noble inmidtown Manhattan this week. The chapter on how to brand yourself and your company on the net is now available at .

Formally released this week, "Essential Business Tactics for the Net" is already on both the Top 50 Best Selling Internet Commerce books and Web Marketing books at

Larry Chase was the first to establish an online ad agency on the World Wide Web, back in 1993. "I see people making mistakes now that I made years ago" Chase observes. The book puts the reader's learning curve on fast forward so they don't have to reinvent mistakes already made and learned from. "I always encourage people to get started early so they can make their own mistakes ahead of their competitors. That unique learning curve will serve them as a competitive advantage down the road," Chase advises. "Knowing the Internet today is like knowing how to use the computer in the mid-late 80's. If you learned the computer back then, you added value to yourself and your firm. If you didn't have computer skills by the mid 90's, you were probably out of the ballgame," Chase is fond of saying.

Chase applied his 15 years of New York ad agency experience in the marketing of his "Essential Business Tactics for the Net," by offering an additional "value-add" to the purchase of the book. Those buying his book are entitled to a years free access to his Web Digest For Marketers archives ($25 otherwise) which contains thousands of short reviews of business-oriented sites. The archives saves the reader on that most valuable and finite commodity, his or her time.

Essential Business Tactics for the Net by Larry Chase with Nancy C. Hanger is published by Jonn Wiley & Sons, June 1998. ISBN # 0471257222 

Previous transcripts and schedule of upcoming chats --

To connect to the chat room, go to

The full text of Richard Seltzer's books The Social Web, Take Charge of Your Web Site, Shop Online the Lazy Way, and The Way of the Web, plus more than a hundred related articles are available on CD ROM My Internet: a Personal View of Internet Business Opportunities.

Web Business Boot Camp: Hands-on Internet lessons for manager, entrepreneurs, and professionals by Richard Seltzer (Wiley, 2002). No-nonsense guide targets activities that anyone can perform to achieve online business
success. Reviews.

a library for the price of a book.

This site is Published by Samizdat Express, 213 Deerfield Lane, Orange, CT 06477. (203) 553-9925.

Return to Samizdat Express