The microsite is dying, only most clients and (traditional above-the-line) agencies have not woken up to this yet. Adam Ostrow asks Is Social Media making corporate websites irrelevant? I agree with him and with We Are Social and say microsites are being killed off by social media (and search). Even David Armano just killed his website
Microsites are usually part of the silo’d channel marketing that clients (and some agencies) seem to love. So to have a brand campaign, you put out a TVC, some print ads, outdoor and then online is just the tacked on afterthought – and its usually the “matching baggage” banner advertising, and the microsite. Microsites exist because of a need for a campaign extension: a place to enter a competition, a place to go to when you’ve clicked on a banner to “find out more”, sometimes it’s a story that continues on from a television commercial. Except in most cases there’s not enough story to keep people hanging around to engage at all.
My favourite case study is a recent one for Bonds underwear called Bonds Art Attack. It had a rich media banner, where you could interact with it and make the bum in it wiggle. The banner doesn’t live online anymore but you can get a sense of it in this Vimeo video case study.
The interaction rates of the banner campaign were huge – even offsetting the naturally higher engagement rates on rich media platform Eyeblaster the interactions and click throughs were 2000% higher than average. So what happened when the audience clicked through? They left Bonds Art Attack a few seconds later. The bounce rate on the site was huge (much higher than average), and probably because there was not much more there than the banner (just a bigger virtual canvas with photos of under wear to splash paint on). “Flashturbation” is a term I laughed at this week, in connection to agency Flash websites, can so be applied in this instance too.
So we can ask some questions as to why something like this can happen:
- Bonds doesn’t have a digital strategy, nor a search strategy; probably because it doesn’t sell product online.
- No social media strategy. Searching for Bonds pulls up the Facebook page which was created by Bonds and has grown to 39,000 + fans. This was more by accident than design – the content to the page is sporadic and doesn’t drive traffic to any of the campaign microsites. The only mention of any advertising campaigns is the embeded TVCs on the Wall.
- Bonds website and microsites are all in Flash, and are typical of campaign microsites with pretty pictures and not much else
- Eyeblaster as a platform offers “in banner conversions” not used in this case but could have been a way to get users to stockists via Maps in Banner feature By using a rich banner, the content is brough to the user rather than forcing the user away from the content they are currently browsing, and especially if there is no purchasing reason to go
- There’s no reason to go back to the microsite, or stay if you went there from the banner which had a similar user experience (albeit a more compact one)
So what’s the answer? This would work for most fashion brands
- A social media strategy – Bonds talks to customers where they want to be talked to – Facebook is a clear winner at the moment (because its the only option!) but Twitter may be an option for them
- A digital strategy encompassing search and a long term eCRM strategy that lives beyond campaign work
- Decentralised content could work – especially if there are reasons to create user generated content, and with the fan base they have this is likely
- Shareable content – the Bonds Art Attack TVC doesn’t live on YouTube or Vimeo, (its been hacked by some third party aggregator which is how I found it and embedded it). The only other place the TVC is available is within Facebook, again only to stay and to be shared within Facebook.
- A mashup site that acts as a social media and decentralised content aggregator – all the benefits of constantly updating content
What do you think? Do you go back to Flash websites? Are augmented reality websites just the new Flashturbation? What do you want out of a brand/product site?