AOL created its omnipresent new-media brand the old-fashioned way -- with an incessant campaign of old media and direct marketing.
It became the ultimate Internet direct marketer. AOL had its fling with TBWA/Chiat/Day and wacky "Jetsons" ads, but it soon saw the wisdom of returning to what works: straightforward, direct pitches that explain the product and get consumers online. There's a lesson here for dot-coms that wonder why their clever, over-the-top -- and irrelevant -- brand campaigns haven't worked.
AOL has done a fine job of adjusting to the ever-changing rules of the online marketing world. But there's nothing especially mysterious about this company. It is a hard-working, focused organization that has mastered the basic rules of marketing. That is a story worth repeating.