A nice deck from Forrester's Nate Elliott looking at some of the findings of his recent report, the Interactive Brand Ecosystem:

It’s time for marketers to start taking the brand-building power of interactive channels more seriously [...] Your online content and experiences should be the first piece of the brand campaign you develop, and not the last piece. After all, the Internet is the deepest, richest, and most trusted branding channel you possess — and within a year or two it’ll probably be the biggest too. Your customers have entered an era of interactivity, and it’s time for your brand campaigns to do the same.

He also adds some practical advice:

For me, leading your brand with interactive marketing isn’t about choosing one channel over another; it's about rethinking how all our marketing channels work together. The way we "coordinate" our marketing channels right now is broken: Even today, most marketers develop their TV ads first and then hand them to the interactive team and hope they can build a site or a banner campaign that matches. As we've all seen, this rarely works well.

It’s time to replace this old-fashioned TV-first model of campaign development with one that starts by focusing on our deepest, most trusted marketing channel: interactive. It’s time for us to start building multilayered brand ecosystems that put interactive tools at the core:

  1. Engage users on your own web site. Nearly every audience we’ve studied says it trusts a marketer’s own site more than any other marketing channel -- including offline advertising and social media. Use this trust to build a site that shows users what your brand stands for. And rather than just deliver content here, pull social experiences (like blogs, communities, or Facebook Connect) into your site to make it more interesting and useful to your audience. This will be the place where your brand makes its biggest impact.
  2. Distribute your content and engagement into social and mobile media. Just because Facebook and other social platforms aren’t at the very heart of your ecosystem doesn’t mean they’re not a crucial part of how you communicate with your audience. Choose pieces of the content and interaction from your site and push them out into the social (and, if appropriate, the mobile) channels your customers prefer. Your brand probably won't make quite as big an impact through social tools as it does on your own site -- but social platforms will make your brand accessible to users who don't find their way to your site.
  3. Reach a broad audience with paid media. The challenge of owned media (like your web site and your social platforms) is that it rarely generates significant scale. If you want to get your message out to millions of people rather than thousands, you’ll need to buy both online and offline paid media. This is where your brand will make its smallest impact on any given person, so focus on using the scale of paid media to talk about the brand story you’ll telling on your web site and to drive users back to that site by promoting the URL.

Disclosure: The full version of Nate's report features our Marmarati work for Unilever.