Brand Thunder often finds itself lumped into the category of toolbar. It’s not a comparison I necessarily agree with, but anything that’s a recurring perception is worth a look.

Here’s an overview of toolbars, browser themes and what each can do for your web site, business or community.

One point I’d emphasize, these products are not mutually exclusive. It’s never a question of which one to implement, but what each brins when you offer them to your audience. Community Toolbars is the leader in the community toolbar space, and they have an amazing product. In a matter of minutes, anyone can register at their site, upload a logo and start building a custom community toolbar that they can share with their online community. Additionally, the web publisher can choose from a host of web apps and tools to make the toolbar serve the wider needs of their audience.

The toolbar gives the web publisher a toehold into the online experience of the user by placing a small piece of branding, some icons and feeds for your site. Then it strives for retention (continued use) of the toolbar by adding icons to other products like email, Facebook, YouTube videos, MochiGames or whatever that publisher feels is best for their user.

It’s a proven strategy of rolling the attraction of brand affinity with personalization that gives the user the elements of the Internet they use on a daily basis. Conduit offers thousands of ways to personalize the toolbar experience. The web publisher defines the default experience for their community, but the user can adjust the toolbar to their own liking over time.

Browser Themes

Brand Thunder, long the leader in the interactive browser theme space, offers similar capability with its BT:Engage DIY browser theme creator. In a matter of minutes, a web publisher can build a unique browser theme full of visuals and interactive content.

BT:Engage DIY browser theme creator

Where the Conduit community toolbar goes wide, the Brand Thunder browser themes go deep. The brand and theme provide a visual immersion complemented by integrated content and functionality. It’s a rich experience between the web publisher and their online community. A suite of personalization features have been added like Facebook and Weatherbug, but not to the full extent offered by Conduit.

Core Value Proposition of Toolbars and Browser Themes

The basic promise of both the toolbar and the browser theme is a persistent connection to your online user, which has huge value. Think about the expense that goes into building and maintaining a web site, then add in cost of getting people there. Then consider that while people spend hours online, they spend seconds on a web page. And, unless you’re Facebook, you’re not likely getting a large percentage of that time.

With persistent placement in the browser, you capture awareness and interaction the entire time your user is online. That drives up exposure, engagement and return visits. Without that exposure, at best you’re one stop among many. At worst, you’re an afterthought.

Affinity Marketing – Visual Identity

Both toolbars and browser themes fall under the concept of affinity marketing tools. Visual identity plays a large role with affinity groups and both toolbar and theme play to that connection to varying degrees. Also, each of your users will have a level of comfort as to what they like.

You can put a toolbar on your computer, and like a bumper sticker, you eventually look past it. It’s present but doesn’t always capture your attention. If you trick out your car, you’re not going to miss it. I can no longer find the traffic increase data point for toolbars, but if my memory is correct, the contribution difference is similar to the difference in visual impact of these two images. And while I don’t have any data to compare, my gut tells me the toolbar has the edge in terms of lifespan of usage. I’ve seen the dips when our sports teams lose.


Pros & Cons – Shared

There are pros and cons to both approaches, and there are those shared by both.


  • Free and easy to set up.
  • Free tools for promoting and sharing.
  • Increase site visits, commerce and engagement.
  • Great for mainstream and passionate audiences.


  • Web development community tends to avoid products like these. If that’s your audience, may not be the best fit.
  • Require ongoing promotion to grow audience – like most products.

Pros & Cons of Toolbars


  • Toolbar apps for every conceivable use.
  • Revenue sharing.
  • Available for four major browsers: Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari


  • Limited visual presence.
  • Added to bottom of browser chrome.

Pros & Cons of Browser Themes


  • Entire browser chrome part of experience .
  • New ad inventory including sponsorships within the browser chrome and sidebar ad inventory.
  • Available for three major browsers: Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer.


  • ¬†Apps limited to most popular.
  • DIY product has limited feature set in its early stage of release.
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