Patrick Murphy, founder and CEO of Brand Thunder (www.brandthunder.com), is a first time entrepreneur in Columbus, OH. He recognized the branding and communication potential within the Internetbrowser and built a business that helps companies establish a persistent connection with their online audience. Brand Thunder’s interactive browser themes have attracted top-tier clients across categories such as news, entertainment, professional and collegiate sports and across the globe from the US and Canada to Hong Kong, India and the UK.
What made you think of the browser as a marketing tool?
Brand Thunder’s interactive browser themes were conceptualized at the early stages of what’s now called Web 2.0. There was an explosion of communications in web properties if you think about the rise of blogging, Facebook, Twitter and the like. There were also increased predictions about cloud-based computing and the future of software applications residing on the web.
The one consistent across this landscape was the browser. It remained the workhorse of the Internet, but also had the visual appeal of a mule. Working on the Netscape browser, I became familiar with its theming capabilities and those of its Mozilla counterpart, the Firefox browser. It became obvious that functional didn’t have to be boring.
What is the value proposition for an interactive theme to a business?
It’s an affinity-marketing tool in the best sense of the term. Many affinity-marketing products take advantage of the existing relationship between and brand and their fan base. Think of how in the ’90s MBNA became the largest credit card issuer through its affinity cards. The desire of fans to have a logo of their favorite sports team, college or university created an entire category for credit cards.
While Brand Thunder leverages that same attraction to build an audience of users, the end result is not just a business relationship between the brand and its audience, but a better relationship. That’s because the visual nature of the browser theme is only the beginning of the product offering. The theme is a big draw to get users into the product, but it’s the content and functionality that keep them there. That’s the interactive component of our themes. We’re more than just a visual experience; we’re a communication channel.
How does this differ from other web applications?
We differ because there is little competition that offers the same level of visual presence, communication capability and persistence when users are online that an interactive browser theme does.
Yet, there are also similarities. Just like companies don’t have a presence only on one social media site, I suggest they not have a single application that helps their audience connect with them when they’re not on their web site.
Companies invest a lot of time, resources and dollars in building their website. They can positively affect their ROI by leveraging tools like interactive browser themes, toolbars, widgets, gadgets, desktop apps and more to help them repurpose their development efforts and reach users whenever they’re at their computer.
The incremental resource commitment to undertake these initiatives is fairly small. There are leading companies in each of these categories that make it easy to build out the capability and get it into the hands of the company’s audience. Doing this gives the user more choice in how they interact with your brand, and meeting the desires of your audience is a great way to strengthen that relationship.
What are the prospects for browser themes to gain in popularity?
Browser themes are coming into their own. The second half of 2009 resulted in some major movement and it continues to grow. Firefox built Personas into the browser code with the release of its 3.6 browser. Also, Google Chrome released its theme gallery that featured artist created browser themes. Each offers its own set of functionality and advantages. Firefox has a nice preview tool so you can immediately see how the theme looks in the browser. Chrome themes extend to new tabs, so opening a new tab creates a much bigger themed experience.
While both Mozilla and Google are contributing to the market awareness of browser themes, neither offers the interactive component that Brand Thunder brings. We also deliver our capabilities to Internet Explorer, so the reach of our product is well over 90% of the online audience. All in all, it bodes well for the growth of this category and for meeting the needs of businesses and consumers alike.
What is the best type of company or audience to use a browser theme?
Typically, larger audiences with a passion about the brand or topic are better suited for an interactive browser theme. Like anything, there are exceptions to the rule – outliers that either over or under perform.
Larger audiences help, because any time a user must download an application there’s a drop off in acceptance. Starting with that larger audience will help ensure there are still a big number of users with the product. Passion can offset some of that download hurdle. There are certain categories with an inspired audience and they pursue the product regardless.
It’s equally important for companies to have the ability to promote an offering like this. It’s no different than any other product. If you don’t build awareness, it will suffer.
Ultimately, it’s the company that values its relationship with its audience and wants to improve it that’s the best fit. An interactive browser theme is only one part of an ongoing communication strategy that companies should be undertaking. The companies that are active in other ways of engaging their audience, and leverage the browser as part of those initiatives, will see the best results.