For the past couple of years I have been hearing many people state it is the end of the brand website … I could not disagree more! I see proclamations like
as stated in an article I read this week. This mentality is completely backwards.
For far too long, marketers have regarded websites as a place for purchase first and information second. Yes, a website should be a place for commerce, but it needs to be a source of content first. Content that provides entertainment, subject matter expertise, and information. The content needs to be crafted such that it promotes the brand’s target audience’s lifestyle.
Let me give you an example to start and then I will come back to points of consideration. Look at Red Bull’s website – they have nailed it. Yes they could try to sell Red Bull on their site, but their audience would be completely turned off by that approach. Instead, Red Bull uses their website to be a media company. They understand their audience and give their audience content they want. Content on extreme lifestyles of adventure, motor sports, biking, skateboarding, snowboarding, and music. They do not push their brand, but they sell a brand lifestyle. This reinforces the position of their brand and the feeling they want their target audience to have about their brand.
Now Red Bull does take my point to an extreme. I think it is worthwhile to have some brand soft sell on the website – coupons, sweepstakes, ecommerce – but all of these marketing touches should not overload the web content and overtake website real estate.
Many digital marketers focus on their brand’s play on social and mobile marketing. There is definitely a need to have strong brand presence in these digital areas because of today’s audience behavior. All marketing efforts must be driven by target audience actions and motivations. Now at the same time, we want brands to have a core, consolidated portfolio of content and information availability.
Almost one year ago, I wrote an article on the importance of content on a brand’s website. I brought up this concept of a content hub. Your brand website should include this content hub, and the content hub should be a primary part of the website. Then, social channels, mobile, and apps should be used to reference the content, proliferate the content, and to engage with the target audience.
I argued that while social marketing is not about direct sales, certainly we do not want to miss the opportunity for sale conversion if the reader has that interest. Having the content directly on the site where there is also product information and ecommerce creates increased consideration and sales opportunities. Social marketing and the wide spread use of mobile should be used to leverage the brand content and direct people back to a place where all content resides. This approach allows the audience to see the breadth of valuable content provided by the brand as opposed to simply putting content in social postings. The audience will gain an appreciation for the breadth of content and spend greater time on the website. This may result in greater brand preference and ultimately greater loyalty and advocacy.
As an audience gains appreciation for the brand content, they should be able to use the brand website as a utility for purchase as well. Include ecommerce and shopping cart technologies on the website, but once again, do not hog up website real estate. Yes, I understand this is a brand’s primary interest – to sell. But we must be cognizant of audience motivations or lack there of. They do not want a hard sell.
Gain trust and reputation. Then make it easy to purchase. Your brand website design should be driven by these objectives, in that order.
The end of the website – definitely not. But rather I see the stylization and utility of brand website needing a dramatic change.
Make It Happen,