Back in the day, probably round about 1999, I held a talk about “interactive Branding” at one of the Internet World conferences. The gist: forget about fancy graphics and the likes. Branding on the Internets is foremost about service and a service culture. Usability beats flashy designs. And treating your customers well is more important than any splash page. Because the emotion delivered via craftsy colors and incredible images pales against the raw fury of disgruntled customers, amplified over the nets.
Back then, our ad industry partners (and investors) were not too pleased, found the proposition rather questionable, and the possible outcome wholeheartedly undesirable (you would not hire an ad agency for business process design, wouldn’t you?).
Now you’ll find a whole conference on Service Design, which tells you how wrong they have been (and yes, there’s quite some place for agencies and designers to better their client’s brands, and not just the perception of).