Who would have guessed that the Rolling Stones knew so much about brand marketing – “You always say that you want to be free, but you always keep running back to me… I got the real love – the kind that you need.” As the interactive marketing industry increasingly points to the branding power of the Internet, it becomes ever more important for industry professionals to keep the data showing that the Internet offers strong branding potential in perspective. While many studies have indicated the Internet’s branding potential, what is not readily evident is whether that branding power is strongest for building a completely new brand or for enhancing established brands.

Recollection does not a brand make. Just because an ad generates awareness and recall, it does not mean that it is building a brand in its truest sense. A brand is a psychological construct that includes a set of emotions associated with it. Although many new brands are simply struggling for an image – young, hot, fun – they are missing the point. They may succeed in creating this brand image, but their customers are, more often than not, left feeling empty. The Rolling Stones have been preaching to us about this for years – “I can’t get no satisfaction.”

Older brands that generate feelings of trust, comfort, and familiarity are the ones that last. They are the ones that have been around for decades and continue to prosper. They are not only household names – they have become part of our collective consciousness, conjuring up remembrances of our childhoods, our mothers, and old friends.

Do you think that Tide will still be around 20 years from now? What about MSN? Will your children remember their mother tucking them in for the night with a freshly washed blanket every time that they smell Tide when they are adults, or will they remember their first social studies assignment when they are reading a piece on MSN?

Time is indeed on an older brand’s side. Sure, these brands may not have that pop image for which everyone seems to be fighting, but they have withstood the test of time. Consumers do keep running back. Maybe they want to be free, and maybe they embrace the youth culture, buy into the hype, and purchase these hot new brands. How long does that last? A year? Three years?

Marketers seem to be obsessed with youth – after all, is it not better to get to them early? The question is, can they keep them? Do they really think that today’s 20-somethings will stick with these trendy brands in their 40’s and 50’s?

Who controls most of the wealth in the United States? Who will make up the largest demographic with the greatest discretionary income over the next few decades? Oh yeah, that’s right – it’s the Baby Boomers. I am sure that they are the type to buy into hype. Yeah – they certainly will forget all of the wisdom that they have garnered over their lives and buy into the youth cult. Yeah, that’s it. Yeah.

You may be wondering what all of this has to do with Internet marketing. Simply put, the Web is serving as a primary conduit to the youths of the nation, and ere go, most of the marketing that is currently occurring is aimed at that crowd. Of course, this makes perfect sense, and I am not questioning the wisdom of marketing to this demographic or to using this perfectly suited vehicle to reach them. What I am questioning is whether or not the Internet can play a long-term role in branding if it does not embrace the older demographics and more tried-and-true brands. Can the ad-supported model work over the long haul?

The fact that the older demographics are increasingly going online is encouraging. It is also a good sign that more and more well-established brands are now using the Internet in their media mix. Perhaps soon there will even be studies showing the power of interactive marketing for reaching these individuals and for promoting these brands. The bottom line is that if online marketing can continue down this road, it will certainly survive and mature into a more mainstream marketing medium.