Turning the mundane into a positive brand experience

When it comes to website design we can get so preoccupied with website strategy, usability, IA, wire frames, copy and design that we sometimes forget to challenge some of the more functional, hygiene aspects of website development. However, with a little bit of effort one can turn the mundane into innovative brand experiences.

Pre-loaders

Everyone hates waiting for a website to load and yet many websites still default to a standard pre-loader.  Considering slow site speed is one of the biggest factors affecting bounce rates it’s probably money well spent investing in an engaging pre-loader to keep them entertained while they wait.

If you need some inspiration, there’s a fantastic site called Pretty Loaded which is dedicated to the wild and wonderful art of pre-loaders. I should warn you now it’s strangely hypnotic and addictive!

404 Not Found

When you think about it, the standard ‘404 Not Found’ message is such an anachronism – it’s not only out of sync with the rest of your carefully crafted, consumer friendly website but it also looks like it’s been written by some random technogeek. I came across this great list by Mashable recently which gives loads of examples of how some brands have tried to add their own personal twist to the standard 404 message. This one below happens to be one of my favourites:

Error prompts

Just because someone types in the incorrect email address doesn’t mean you have to chastise them for inputting incorrect data!  Why not inject your brand personality into the copy to turn their mistake into a slightly more positive experience?

Registration forms

Everyone hates filling in forms so it really makes sense to make it as inviting and effortless as possible.  When Unilever asked  TMW to drive handraiser traffic to their Lynx Lounge login area we decided to ‘sex up’ the registration form by including a rather attractive virtual assistant.  When you enter your details you’ll find the virtual assistant delivers a personalised response which was a nice touch I thought.

CAPTCHA advertising

Even if you’re not familiar with the phrase Captcha you would have come across it by now. It’s an acronym for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart”  ie it invites the user to submit a code to determine whether they are human or a bot. But who would think to turn a Captcha into an ad? Solve Media, for one. The company have worked with the likes of Toyota, Microsoft and Dr. Pepper to create an ad message out of the text. For Dr Pepper, for instance, instead of typing in the usual gobbledegook, users were prompted to type in “There’s nothing like a Pepper”. 

Search box

So you want to help people find stuff quickly on your site?  Well, you can do the easy thing and plonk a standard search box in the top right hand corner of the website.  Or you can tinker with it a bit to add a bit of charm which might present the brand in a more favourable light.  



Tag clouds

I’m seeing more and more fancy tag clouds these days – it’s almost becoming an art form in itself. There are some rather cool 3D animated tag clouds like the example below or if you understand jQuery (which i don’t!)  there’s a plug in you can use here. Or why not follow the example of Nowness and give your audience a selection of interactive ways to navigate tagged content?

Navigation bar

The navbar has obviously been around for years and is a vital way of signposting content on the site.  But for that very reason it’s easy to opt for the status quo and use a standard format. However by changing the aesthetics or functionality of the navbar can help to convey the brand personality as well as enhance general usability of the site.   

Domain name

Now I’m not suggesting you ditch your existing domain name starting from tomorrow but there are times when it pays to come up with something more inventive. I love the way Converse have done it where every page is literally hosted on a different domain. My particular favourite is this one http://www.icantbelievethisdomainwasntalreadytaken.com/

Summary

It’s all too easy to overlook these hygiene factors and either take them for granted or neglect them due to other priorities, especially when we’re all working at 100 miles an hour or to tight budgets. But as the above examples hopefully demonstrate, it’s possible to deliver a very positive brand experience from even the most mundane aspects of website design. I’m sure there are other examples I’ve missed so feel free to add them to the mix below.

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And you thought Philips Carousel was impressive…

I really enjoyed Philips Carousel when it came out 12 months ago and felt it thoroughly deserved all the accolades, not just because of its inventive cinematography but also because it showed just how powerful online video can be as a brand building and buzz generation exercise when executed well.

So like the rest of us, I was looking forward to the next iteration of this campaign and pleased to say I wasn’t disappointed!  Instead of approaching one director, Philips have teamed up with five directors from Ridley Scott Associates and challenged them to create a cutting-edge short film in any genre they liked.  The one stipulation they had to follow was that they all had to use exactly the same script!  It’s quite an ingenious way to articulate the core proposition that there may be numerous ways to tell a story but only one way to actually watch them – on a Philips TV.

For your viewing pleasure I have included all five films below or you can view them in HD in the Parallel Lines microsite here.  Enjoy.

One of the things I particularly like about this campaign is the way they’ve seamlessly integrated multilple disciplines and digital platforms to maximise the social capital of the campaign.   Each platform within the mix fulfils a very specific role to the overall campaign whether that’s to build anticipation or hype around the launch event, encourage consumer participation and collaboration or facilitate the conversation in social media to extend the overall life of the campaign.   I’ll attempt to explain each role in turn from what I’ve gleaned so far.

Building anticipation through blogger outreach

So to build anticipation for the launch, Philips have undertaken a blogger outreach campaign where they’ve sent out intriguing boxes to influential film bloggers.  Inside each box was a note from RSA Films founder Ridley Scott inviting them to work out what the script is and attend the premiere screening.

Hosting the event on YouTube

To celebrate the premiere on 8th April, the homepage of YouTube featured the first ever media player in cinematic 21:9 format featuring scenes from the ‘Parallel Lines’ trailer.  From here consumers could access the dedicated Philips Cinema YouTube channel where the films can be watched on Philips unique ‘Ambiplayer’.

Encouraging participation through crowdsourcing

This year, they’ve also introduced an interesting crowdsourcing element to the campaign where consumers are invited to submit their own short film via their own branded contest channel on YouTube.  I think this is a very clever idea.   No doubt most submissions will be complete dross but I’m sure we’ll see some very intriguing and original interpretations from budding film directors, keen to get the exposure in front of their peers and Sir Ridley Scott!

Extending the life of the campaign through Facebook.

Finally, Philips have also created a dedicated Facebook page to support the campaign which is proactively moderated to produce lively debate and keep the conversation going.  It’s  already attracted a captive audience of 50,000 fans and shows promising signs that it will capture the buzz and generate further excitement around the campaign, not to mention a healthy pool of potential new prospects.

Credits: The Parallel Lines project was developed at DDB London. Digital agency was Tribal DDB Amsterdam.  PR Agency was One Vision.

First Direct banks on positive customer feedback

First Direct

I have to say I really like this new interactive microsite by First Direct as it fully embraces the principles of social media, crowdsourcing and participation marketing, whilst hosting all the UGC in real time.

The campaign focuses on consumer perceptions towards the bank and its customer service, soliciting responses on the website as well as aggregating brand mentions – good and bad – from more than 5 million social media sites. The results are presented in engaging ways such as a sentiment barometer, reminiscent of Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar’swe feel fine‘ experiment.   The way it presents all the content in real time is also noteworthy as it keeps the website constantly fresh and up-to-date.  In fact, it’s not too dissimilar to the intriguing online widget by the US telecoms brand Sprint which I reviewed a few months ago.

It’s a bold move for any brand to host such an open and frank conversation in such a public fashion, none more so than for a brand within a sector which has received such negative publicity of late.  But at the same time, if any bank can do this it’s First Direct, renown for its customer service and its enthusiastic fanbase.  Whilst there are some negative comments, particularly about its atrocious savings rates, First Direct knows it has enough evangelists to keep the balance of the conversation in their favour.

In effect, what they’ve done is harness the largely positive feedback and present it back to the general public in an engaging and interactive way in order to convince new prospects to switch.  At the same time, I imagine they will garner useful feedback as well as uncover new areas for improvement.  In fact, in 2007 a French bank called Credit Mutuel did something similar when they ran an advertising campaign directing customers to a website where they could give feedback to the bank. Once there, customers were invited to answer the question “If I were a banker…”. This early attempt at crowdsourcing proved to be immensely popular and provided some invaluable insights  to help them improve their service offering.

Both approaches are  non-conventional within the banking sector and for that they should be applauded. But above all else, by embracing social media so wholeheartedly and actively encouraging consumer participation First Direct have succeeded to differentiate themselves from its competitors, reinforcing their brand values of openness, honesty, transparency and their unparalleled  commitment to customer service – a brand territory which few other banks can honestly own.

FD questions

Is this the best widget out there ‘right now’?

sprint_widget1

Sprint, the US wireless telecommunications network, have created an interesting online widget to promote the ‘Now Network’ mobile broadband service.  It works by aggregating a number of interesting statistics and live feeds to communicate what is actually happening around the globe right now.  The stats range from the number of flights currently airborne to the number of post-it notes being manufactured at this moment in time – all brought to life with some entertaining flash animation.  If you’ve got a second (literally) and curious to find out what’s happening right now, click here

The  concept integrates well with the new TV spot which presents various metrics of digital communication at any one time.

Many widgets, in my view,  fall short in delivering a suitable return on investment, requiring a lot of upfront investment with limited shelf-life but I suspect this particular example will gain in popularity as more people find out about it, helping to build awareness for the brand as well as drive valuable traffic to their website.

Unfortunately, the one important statistic which Sprint failed to include is how many people are actually interacting with this widget at this precise moment in time!