Interactive Internet Marketing

As the new millennium begins, we are experiencing perhaps the most dynamic and revolutionary changes of any era in the history of marketing, as well as advertising and promotion. These changes are being driven by advances in technology and developments that have led to dramatic growth of communication through interactive media, particularly the Internet. Interactive media allow for a back-and-forth flow of information whereby users can participate in and modify the form and content of the information they receive in real time. Unlike traditional forms of marketing communications such as advertising, which are one-way in nature, the new media allow users to perform a variety of functions such as receive and alter information and images, make inquiries, respond to questions, and, of course, make purchases. In addition to the Internet, other forms of interactive media include CD-ROMs, kiosks, and

interactive television. However, the interactive medium that is having the greatest impact on marketing is the Internet, especially through the component known as the World Wide Web.

While the Internet is changing the ways companies design and implement their entire business and marketing strategies, it is also affecting their marketing communications programs. Thousands of companies, ranging from large multinational corporations to small local firms, have developed websites to promote their products and services, by providing current and potential customers with information, as well as to entertain and interact with consumers. Perhaps the most prevalent perspective on the Internet is that it is an advertising medium, as many marketers advertise their products and services on the websites of other companies and/or organizations. Actually, the Internet is a medium that can be used to execute all the elements of the promotional mix. In addition to advertising on the Web, marketers offer sales promotion incentives such as coupons, contests, and sweepstakes online, and they use the Internet to conduct direct marketing, personal selling, and public relations activities more effectively and efficiently. For example, Exhibit 1-11 shows a page from the Web site for Lands' End which informs consumers how they can get personalized service when they shop online.

While the Internet is a promotional medium, it can also be viewed as a marketing communications tool in its own right. Because of its interactive nature, it is a very effective way of communicating with customers. Many companies recognize the advantages of communicating via the Internet and are developing Web strategies and hiring interactive agencies specifically to develop their websites and make them part of their integrated marketing communications program. However, companies that are using the Internet effectively are integrating their Web strategies with other aspects of their IMC programs.

An excellent example of this is the award-winning "Whatever" campaign developed by Nike and its advertising agency, Weiden & Kennedy, to introduce the Air Cross Trainer II shoes. The ads featured star athletes such as sprinter Marion Jones in dramatic situations, and as each spot ended, the words "Continue at Whatever.Nike.com" appeared on the screen (Exhibit 1-12). When viewers visited the site, they could select from six or seven possible endings to the commercial, read information on the sports and athletes featured in the ads, or purchase the shoes. The integrated campaign was very effective in driving traffic to both Nike's main website and the whatever.nike.com site created specifically for the campaign. The "Whatever" campaign was also very effective in terms of sales as it helped make the Air Cross Trainer II Nike's best-selling shoe soon

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