Brand building is a key component of web marketing as just it is conventional/mass marketing. It is through effective brand that the web marketer creates buyer preference and gains market share.
Brand building in web marketing takes place at three levels. First, the manufacturers build their brand. This is partly akin to their brand building endeavor under conventional marketing and is partly distinct from it. Here, they also have the additional task of reinforcing brand values on the web. The second level in brand building on the web corresponds to independent, commercial web marketers. Their interest is in building their site as such into a brand and promoting it aggressively. The idea is that own identity should serve as a strong pull for the surfers and using that pull, they could sell whatever items hey have opted to sell as marketing intermediaries. Portals account for the third level. Like the independent web marketers, they too try to build their sites into brands. This difference is that they are just info-intermediaries and not intermediaries for products.
Portals, in particular try aggressively to establish themselves as a brand. Yahoo., InfoSeek , C-net, Netscape and Excite are all basically brands pulling customers. Yahoo, which is one of the most prominent portals, is also one of the mega brands; by 1999, it had a market valuation of over $ 33 billion and a user base of 65 million.
Between brand building under conventional marketing and under web marketing there are some commonalities and some differences. The task of brand building in both cases begins long before customers get near the store, the retail shop in the case of conventional marketing, and online store in the case of web marketing. Just as the conventional marketer does much of his brand building outside the retail shop, the web marketer has to do much of his brand building outside his website. He cannot do it at his website. By the time potential customers log on, they usually already what brand that are looking for and from whom they want to buy it. On the web, they normally confine their comparison or brands that are already in their minds on products, their specifications, prices and availability.
In addition to the websites put up by manufacturers, independent web marketers, and affiliates, there is a fourth category of site on the web. These are the portals. While the other categories are selling outfits (online shops), which actually sell products on the web, portals are just communication outfits or gateways to other websites. They serve as gateways to a fantasy land of a multitude of web outfits. In particular, they provide gateways for websites that are a major starting site for users, especially those who are newly connected to the web. They are infomediaries and serve as information/redirect/agents. Attractive web surfers and directing them to various websites is the main task of portals. Providing a meeting ground between sellers and customers is the main value the portals add. They add value by simplifying the online search of the surfers. Apart from directing people along the information superhighway, these infomediaries also gather information from customers.
Typical services offered by portals include a directory of websites, a facility to search for other sites, news, weather information, e-mail, stock quotes, and phone and map information. They, in fact, survive totally on their power to attract the surfers. They earn their revenue by carrying web advertisements and by charging a fee on websites who need their service. Portals differ from independent web marketers in this respect, as the latter earn their revenue from the trade margin available to them on the products they sell.
Portals have to provide compelling content on their site. If the content is good, surfers will recognize that the portals concerned are sources of information and will keep visiting them.
While portals cannot easily transform into online shops, any online shop (website) can because a portal by linking up a few sites and adding some information content. Setting up portals usually attracts more entrepreneurs. Yahoo, InfoSeek, C-net, Netscape and Excite, who are among the strong players on the web, are all portals.