Primix: Web user experience is key

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On Aug. 8, the Internet Advertising Bureau announced that the medium's advertising revenues for the first quarter reached $1.95 billion, 9.9% over the fourth quarter of 1999 and 182% over the first quarter of 1999. The IAB study accounts for various advertising formats, ranging from banners and interstitials to sponsorships and e-mails. The basic philosophy behind building brand through Web advertising is to put ads on sites where the eyeballs are.

Reflecting the flipside of this approach was an announcement Aug. 10 by Watertown, Mass.-based Primix Solutions Inc., trumpeting the Internet services firm's new e-branding services. Primix said that Internet branding success is determined by a customer's experience at a Web site, not primarily by the site's look and feel.

By this theory, a company's Web site is experiential in the same way as its customer service call center: With every customer contact, the brand is either reinforced or damaged.

The idea is not a new one. The naming and branding firm Landor Associates has been practicing a form of e-branding since at least early last year.

"User experience is one of the greatest influences on customer take-away of the brand," said Dave Studeman, president of Landor digital branding.

Led by Frank Mainero, senior VP-chief branding officer, whose career includes a stint at J. Walter Thompson Co., Primix approaches Web site development beginning with its client's offline brand.

"The first thing is it has to be consistent," Mainero said. "We look at fulfillment centers, and we look at call centers to see how you handle customers and to see the consistent brand approach in all of this."

After considering the nature of the offline brand, Primix designs the Web site so the user experience reflects the brand at every turn. Beyond the look and feel of the site, Primix considers the site architecture, content, navigation and the ease of use of any e-commerce element.

Primix clients include Standard & Poor's Corp., Apple Computer Inc. and Data General. Primix also recently helped Kemper Insurance Co. launch a Web site called

Even though the site is operated by a Kemper division, it offers users the ability to compare home and auto insurance from various companies. The site is aimed at human resources departments, which offer the password-protected site to employees as an added benefit.

"After we settled on core values of the brand, which are convenience and value, with Primix's guidance we were really able to nail down that thought as we built the site," said Jim DeLuca, the marketing officer for

Differentiating itself

For Primix, offering e-branding services--in addition to strategy, design and consulting services--is a way to brand itself, differentiating the company from other Internet services firms. Virtually every other such firm offers business strategy consulting, Web design and technology services.

After reaching a 52-week high of $14.88 per share on March 2, Primix plunged to a 52-week low of $1.94 on Aug. 8. The company reported a second quarter net loss of $2.6 million, compared with a net loss of $1.5 million in the second quarter of 1999. Revenues, however, more than doubled to $5.3 million in the second quarter.

Primix, with a market capitalization hovering at $34.5 million, is dwarfed by the market caps of some of its competitors in the Internet professional services market, such as Razorfish ($1.54 billion market cap) and Viant Corp. ($1.53 billion market cap).

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