The Home Page Opportunity (1)

[November 19, 2010]

In the lore of digital marketing, “home page” is one of those generic phrases we toss around 1000 times a day. Like a well-worn sofa we hardly notice anymore, it’s so cozily comfortable we’re oblivious to the frayed edges and coffee stains that only make it an eyesore when we’re expecting company. Only then does the fancy blanket come out of the cedar chest, as we desperately fuss and fidget to make the cushions more presentable.

Trouble is, when your branded home page is in disarray, last minute touch-ups are not an option. So it might be wise to rethink your digital decor, starting with a close look at what other brands are wearing this season.

Take, for example, the home page of Nike.com, the hub of a masterful branding network. “Freedom for your feet” the page proclaims, as of 11-19-10, enticing us with the prospect of cool comfort and sporty utility.

Teamwork in action.
Speaking as someone with a textbook case of sports-aphasia simplex, the magic is surprisingly effective. Lucid navigation, artful color scheme and blessedly understated sports imagery collaborate to launch visitors into a charismatic world of vivid emotion. 

As I see it, several forces combine to make it work, one of which has nothing to do with digital space. For Nike arrives online from one of the most effective offline branding efforts in history. Talk about category redefining, paradigm shifting and concept reframing—no one does it better.

At the same time, there’s plenty in the on-screen arena that contributes to the success of this page. Both literally and subliminally, Nike.com has a distinct personality. While there might be things you don’t like about that personality, at least you know who you’re dealing with. 

That’s because all elements of the visual and verbal vocabulary work toward the same goal. The result is something beyond the powers of mere branding. The Nike home page actually communicates—sending an unmistakable message of excitement, energy and fulfillment.

To me, that’s what branding means, the ability to create such a vivid personality that it can be, well, seductive. Capture that quality on a home page and you can sell anything or, at least, capture enough interest to ensure an interior page seals the deal.

Hub or “Huh?”
On the other hand, there’s Breyers.com. Now, in the interest of transparency, let me say that if anyone epitomizes the target audience for ice cream, it’s me. Yet even I realize that its home page, despite a superficial appeal, is a cluttered array of mixed messages. Once I get past the simulated hot fudge, here’s a summary of the chatter that divides my attention:

• Whose Sundae Took the Cup?
• Delicious. Decadent 160 Calories or Less
• Ice Cream Recipes!
• Play Wordalicious! (YUM)

While the first line relates to a cross promotion with “Top Chef” I’m not familiar with, the remaining lines appear on modules linking to internal pages. What’s the problem? So far, all I know is that Breyers makes ice cream as opposed to, say, tractors.

But wait, there’s more! Your browser’s refresh button takes you to a version of the home page with a different marquee image, and the headline:

We know it’s tempting…but please don’t lick your monitor.

OK, that’s cute, but now all I know is that Breyers makes delicious ice cream—which, if you’re like me, is a redundant thought. Click again and…

Brownie Heaven. Chocolate Bliss.

And again…

Discover the taste of joy.
It’s in every scoop of Breyers All Natural Ice Cream.

What a workout, but at least we’re getting somewhere. Breyers makes all natural ice cream, with the implication that the naturalness is what generates the bliss, the joy and the trip to heaven. Not that the home page(s) actually make that link for you, unless you’ve already seen Breyers’ offline traditional advertising. And, as we’re now told incessantly, nobody looks at that.

Opportunity melts…
So despite three attempts, I still haven’t heard Breyers’ message. If I’m tempted to start my next post with a visit to Häagen-Daz, I promise it has nothing to do with my obsession with frozen desserts. It’s because there’s more to say about the opportunity a home page offers to present a seductive, motivating brand message.


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Mark Laporta

Writer, Creative Consultant
New York, NY




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