Brand dilution: The trend of online brand aggregation

June 16, 2010

An underrated phenomenon is lurking on the periphery of online consciousness — online brand aggregation. The trend of integrating social media accounts, email accounts, RSS feeds, blogs, news sites, and whatever other interests you happen to have, all into one convenient package.

Sure, all social media outlets like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, etc. have the option of integrating your email account into their product, so you can keep track of all the updates, notifications, changes, upgrades, and sparkly distractions that are uploaded every day.

And most email clients and webmail providers have some form of social media integration, whether it’s specific tags, folders, filters, or files that’ll sort all that information for you.

As of yet, there is no be-all end-all aggregation of the above, where everything fits in seamlessly and intuitively. And that, my friends, is a good thing.

Each of the various social media outlets I’ve detailed above, and all those I didn’t, have their own respective brands. Brand identities, images, reputations, histories, strengths, and weaknesses. The same can be said for email clients and webmail options. By trying to wipe out that figurative dividing line between them with your shoe, those individual brands are diluted and smeared like too much chalk and a sidewalk.

Conversely, no matter what sort of dividers may be between email service providers and social media outlets, they are inexorably linked. You can’t obtain a social media account without providing an email account when registering. Without those social media accounts, your email inboxes would be a lot less interesting.

It wasn’t too long ago that Microsoft’s webmail service Hotmail tried its hand at social media. Trying to erase that line didn’t end well, and the attempt was eventually pulled in place of new filter and folder options, separating all those email notifications of who poked you, what new videos have been posted, who you’re connected to, and more.

Perhaps it’s my preference for keeping dividers between certain things, whether it’s veggies and meat on a plate, or the various accounts I have online. Heck, I track almost a dozen email accounts between work and home, and don’t ask me how many social media sites I have accounts on, it’s a number better left a mystery. But I prefer having some sense of division between them, even if it’s an intangible, figurative divider.

Unless an email provider and a social media site merge or one acquires the other, I don’t see how two brands from two different segments of online life could co-exist without dividers of which brand is responsible and associated with which online offering or feature. For some of you it may be like trying to mix apples to avocados (which should never, ever be attempted), or merely granny smith apples and red delicious apples — different colors, but complementary flavors.

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