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Ebrands: Building an Internet Business at Breakneck Speed Hardcover – May, 2000

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Editorial Reviews Review

The Internet and brands are probably the two hottest business topics of the moment. So Phil Carpenter's timely book eBrands, which looks at building brands on the Internet, scores a double whammy on the business groove-o-meter. Carpenter, director of corporate marketing for Silicon Valley start-up Remarq, foregoes the theoretical, business-school approach in favor of the more easily absorbed case-study method, with detailed analysis, interviews, and behind-the-scenes peeks at six Internet businesses that have already established themselves successfully as brands. They include Yahoo!, Fogdog Sports, iVillage, and

Carpenter's basic argument is: "In an environment characterized by extreme choice, perplexed customers will turn to the familiar. They will establish relationships with specific Internet brands and do business with them repeatedly." The book is thoroughly researched. In fact, it's amazing Carpenter got his subjects to share so openly and honestly, not only their learning but also the details of their mistakes. For instance, he writes of online CD retailer CDNow's customer acquisition program, "CDNow is already paying an average of $45 per person for each new customer.... this puts even more pressure on CDNOW to wring greater value from online shoppers".

Carpenter makes much of the point that a brand is far more than a logo or marquee and includes everything the company does, from publicity to answering the phone to order fulfillment. While it's an argument that will be old hat to anybody with a marketing background, it's a point well made for those coming from a more technical or general business environment--as many net entrepreneurs tend to do. This is an excellent marketing primer for anyone who needs to know how to make e-business work. --Alex Benady,

From Publishers Weekly

Applying traditional business analysis to the realities of the new economy, Carpenter presents marketing case studies of six Internet firms to explain how brand making is conducted in the world of e-commerce. The music purveyor CDNow successfully adapted the old-fashioned hardsell by peppering customers with follow-up e-mails encouraging them to buy more. Yet Fogdog Sports tried more or less the same thing for sports equipment with less success. According to Carpenter (a Silicon Valley marketing director), has made its mark with Avis's old "number two tries harder" strategy, positioning as its Hertz. Unlike the first three, Yahoo! and iVillage were never bricks-and-mortar stores; their marketing tactics reflect their greater understanding of the Internet medium. Yahoo! staked out prime Internet real estate and defended it successfully with a combination of sharp personality and technical innovation; iVillage draws customers into interactive relationships with content, creating an umbrella organization of branded virtual spaces like Parent Soup and Better Health. Meanwhile, was an early online auction site that missed out on the growth of that business and is now merging with failed bricks-and-mortar computer retailer, Egghead, in an Internet retail venture. From these cases, Carpenter extracts several valuable lessons (among them, pay attention to the power of momentum and forge strong content alliances), but the book's format and organization is more likely to appeal to business school students than to practicing marketers. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press; First Printing edition (May 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0875849296
  • ISBN-13: 978-0875849294
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,862,082 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
As Carpenter explains, his book "is based on an analysis of the brand-building efforts of six companies. Four of them, which represent the core of the book, are established Internet ventures that rose to the challenge of developing brands distinctly for this new medium." The six are: iVillage, CDNOW,, Yahoo!, Fogdog Sports, and Onsale. Carpenter does a brilliant job of explaining what each did right...and what each did wrong. In process, he rigorously examines a number of best practices common to all:
Focus on Building Brand Awareness
Cultivate Customer Commitment
Forge Strong Distribution and Content Alliances
Move Early, Move Fast
Develop an Intimate Knowledge of the Market and the Customer
Cultivate a Reputation for Excellence
Deliver Outstanding Value
Carpenter devotes a separate chapter to each of the six companies. In the Conclusion, he suggests that "the development of an Internet brand is a holistic process. Building awareness -- the activity that many equate with `branding' -- is just one aspect of brand development. Crafting a powerful online brand requires paying just as much attention to developing other facets of brand as well, such as customer loyalty and influential distribution partnerships. There is no silver bullet solution for the development of a substantial Internet brand. Instead, dominant ebrands emerge when companies invest in a rich mixture of marketing and business practices." If there is a better book on this subject, I have not as yet read it.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By ed roland on May 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Just finished reading Carpenter's book and really enjoyed it. I work for an offline company that is attempting to build brand awareness on the Web, and as a result, I was particularly interested in his chapter on I've read story after story about But this is one of the first detailed accounts I've ever found of how has worked to build an Internet brand that would complement its brick-and-mortar brand. Most writers take a pretty superficial view of -- they take the easy way out and write the "david and goliath" story. This book reveals the company's mistakes, alright, but it also highlights the smart choices that has made.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By robin carpenter on June 15, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Liked the "eBrands" perspective on brand development. Forging a brand on the Web is much more than building a flashy site or picking a sharp name. The brand ties back to almost everything you do -- how you treat your customers, the offers you extend them, etc.
Found this book to have good parallels with "," which I also enjoyed. Much more useful than the new "11 immutable laws of branding" -- at least for someone in Internet land. The Internet is changing too fast for anything to be immutable, in my opinion.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Eric Eskin on October 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I give up! I struggled to read through this book. Phil Carpenter attempts to present how Internet brands are developed by presenting "case studies" on six well-known companies. The marketing strategies of these companies (iVillage, CDNow,, Yahoo!, FogDog Sports, and OnSale) are detailed in a manner filled with "buzzwords" but little in the way of thoughtful analysis or performance measurement.
Carpenter follows the same business methodology of many Internet companies today in believing that "big numbers" translate into success. As we have seen this is a flawed formula. Further, the simplisitic discussions of banner ads, viral marketing, etc., provides little insight into eBrand management for your organization. Specifically, Carpenter never makes the connection between an eBrand and profit.
If you are attempting to formulate an internet-based marketing strategy a much better read is Seth Yodin's book on Permission Marketing.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By steven collins on May 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Good stuff! The author offers an in-depth look at the marketing activities of some of the best-known players on the Web. I've read a lot of books on Internet marketing, and I particularly appreciated the fact that "eBrands" does not sugar coat the examples it uses. Where these companies have implemented strategies and tactics worth following, Carpenter lets you know. But he doesn't pull any punches, and when the case study companies have had problems (for example, he highlights iVillage's outrageous burn rate, to which marketing expenditures have been a big contributor), the writer highlights these isues. Definitely a good read for anyone responsible for driving the marketing activities of an Internet company.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Water Monkey on October 30, 2000
Format: Hardcover
"Branding on the Internet". If you go to any multi-day web seminar these days you will surely run into a class on this subject. Most of these classes spend a few hours talking about successful (and not) examples in the Internet without going into the research.
This book uses a similar approach. For the business/marketing person this book will be frustrating, with its basic findings (e.g. using a banner). The problem is this book was not meant for the marketing person as a lesson on how to brand their company on the Internet. This book was written for the web designer, as an introduction to branding.
The book itself has a problem in that the only company profiled that can be considered a success would be Yahoo! Anyone who uses the Internet regularly will recognize most of the other sites, but has anyone ever bought anything, or even visited these sites?
The author claims that when people are faced with unclear choices they will revert to what is comfortable, which is true. The question that arises is, other than Yahoo! do you feel comfortable with any of these companies. It seems the author chose second-tier websites because the top-tier weren't available.
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