As petty nobility goes, the Marquee of Indecision is about as petty as it gets. Here’s a routine Web site feature that’s now at least 12 years old—and it still insists on claiming pride of place on sites from Juneau to Honolulu.
What, you might ask, is the source of this arrogance? It’s the slavish devotion of the Marquee’s subjects, a realm of lazy marketers who’d rather endure His Lordship’s insufferable posturing, than decide on a unified, branded focal point for their Web presence.
The Marquee to the rescue. Why slug it out around a conference table when a revolving slide show can, apparently, offer something for everyone?
It’s so easy! None of that headache-inducing thought. OK, check that, you do have to pick the slides. Fortunately, it’s more often a matter of pick-up from existing materials, which the Marquee of Indecision is happy to re-skin for you out of aristocratic largesse. He’ll even let you select a devilishly poppy headline for each slide from his personal poppy fields.
No wonder everyone looks the other way when the Marquee fails to win more than a smattering of new business for your brand every quarter. The “Learn More” buttons he provides are simply to die for.
Of course, there’s always that dissenting rabble. Not everyone is happy with the current regime.
Clueless about messaging.
Aside from the clunky incompetence of most marquee design—which typically gives no thought to how or whether the slides interrelate—my concern is with the absence of focus. What, for example, is the unifying message behind the goings on at Dairy Queen.com?
The premise, I assume, is that the tiny tagline jammed under the logo is enough to unify this wasteland of disconnected thoughts. “Fan Food, Not Fast Food” reads the tag. But in what way does the marquee reinforce that message, let alone define it? Does the brand mean to say that junk food’s not junky if enough people like it?
Meanwhile, the product shots tell us what most Americans already know: Dairy Queen sells soft ice cream and related products. Unless you’re under the age of 12 and have never had dessert, these slow moving slides deliver absolutely no value.
In fact, there’s nothing here to tell me how “DQ” is any different from Carvel, except perhaps that the latter site has slightly better photography and features “Fudgie,” an androgynous transition object who may or may not be a whale.
The issue is whether something as prominent as a 840 x 1500 pixel marquee should be used solely to push product-level promotions. Seriously, this is the best way I know to squander the resources of digital space available to promote, clarify and evolve your brand message.
In this case, the extent to which the unexamined use of a home page marquee makes Dairy Queen and Carvel indistinguishable is a simple example of how harmful this ubiquitous device can be.
What should be elementary to “Watson.”
And yet, even for companies savvy enough to know better, the Marquee of Indecision’s scintillating banter continues to prove irresistible. At IBM.com, a company that would like to be known for its path- breaking innovation in, among other things, digital know-how, we’re treated to a slightly more upscale slide-show that is, nonetheless, just as empty of a unifying theme. In its place are three rather watery attempts to frame the company as a thought-leader, which rise no higher than the level of a community bulletin board.
Don’t get me wrong: Community bulletin boards serve a useful purpose. But the average organization behind one isn’t trying to be seen as a globe-spanning “solution provider” for business and industry.
Surprisingly, even a company as brand-conscious as Apple serves up the same kind of comfort-food casserole, showing an even more disparate range of images than Dairy Queen. Self-referential, with no outreach to consumers, this marquee contributes to a home page completely dependent on the company’s promotions in other media.
What I object to in all of these cases is the treatment of digital space as if it were simply an electronic convenience. You know, a print ad without the printing costs, nudge, nudge. Or a TV spot without the fuss—especially if it’s a recycled TV spot you can load into a content management system, press PUBLISH and then treat yourself to a nice lunch.
As a closing thought, have a look at Hertz.com and ask yourself, “Who the…rental car…is Hertz?” I mean, aren’t they the ones who try harder—or is that the other guy?