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The Evolution of eBay: Changing Global Brand Perceptions

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By: Cait Wilson, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Utah

“Your brand is not what you say it is. It’s what they say it is.” – Marty Neumeier

eBay has a brand perception problem. Nic Brandenberger, Global Brand Director, brings us back in time to remind us what eBay used to look like. eBay was an e-commerce corporation that predominantly facilitated auction-style sales. The brand was playful, childlike, quirky, and offbeat. Unfortunately, consumers are stuck in the past and still think of eBay in this way despite the time that has passed. Nic showed us the eBay brand today; the website is dynamic, approachable, inspiring, personalized, and smart. eBay still offers auction-style sales but has transformed into a global marketplace with business-to-consumer sales. The evolution of the eBay brand is clear, but consumers perceptions of the brand haven’t shifted with the times.


eBay’s brand awareness is high amongst consumers; people are very aware of (the old) eBay. People know or claim to know eBay, but old brand perceptions impact the customer journey. The customer journey shows people drop out right at the beginning of the purchasing process and do not consider eBay for online shopping.

The Global Brand and Customer Insights team set out on a long journey of trying to change consumers’ perceptions of eBay. To drive consideration, eBay had to help consumers better understand their brand and “shatter misconceptions” people had. Thomas Walker, Senior Director of Global Brand and Customer Insights, emphasized the importance of messaging. They had to identify messages that would help drive consideration and differentiate eBay amongst competitors.

Messaging development allowed eBay to identify several key messages likely to drive customer consideration. These messages needed to resonate with consumers so eBay partnered with Burke to host Accelerated Learning Labs®. Research participants were shown the initial messages and helped refine them until they were engaging for customers. The messages that garnered the highest brand consideration were identified via TURF analysis and creative frameworks were developed on how to incorporate the messages across different touchpoints.

Check out the new eBay commercial that includes several key messages identified through the research process.

I don’t know about you, but this commercial gave me a much better understanding of the eBay brand today and even made me consider eBay for online shopping. This is a step in the right direction toward changing global brand perception and time will tell the impact these messages have on consumer consideration.

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