The Home Page Opportunity (2)

[November 27, 2010]

“Get lost in our legacy,” says the headline at Häggen-Dazs.com, on 11-27-10, above a video in the marquee area.

As I continue to think about the home page opportunity—to deliver a value message that engages, moves and motivates an audience—I can only shake my head at this self-involved execution. Worse, this mood-ring masquerading as an action statement focuses attention on the one thing most “digital natives” lack—a sense of historical perspective.

And yet the problems with this home page run deeper. Like many Web sites from major brands, its very existence is pro-forma. Trouble is, this ya-gotta-hava-webpage mentality short circuits the line of communication to consumers. What’s the underlying premise for this approach? I suspect it runs something like this:

“Because Häagen-Dazs is so familiar, it’s sufficient for the Web site to project branded imagery into digital space.”

Even silence is better than saying nothing.
But since when is Sufficiency a valid marketing strategy? In this case, this lifeless entity succeeds only in degrading the brand. In a world where, in theory, consumers now bypass traditional marketing channels, you’d think more brands would recognize a simple truth: Their digital face should be the defining, driving force of their communication strategy—not a pale offshoot that says, essentially, nothing.

What is there, for example, in the subhead “Serve up holiday joy” that would motivate consumers to buy Häagen-Dazs over another premium brand? What, in these difficult times, is there to motivate them to choose anypremium brand. Now, that’s leaving aside the embarrassingly formulaic copy itself:

Serve up holiday joy:
Find the perfect addition to your holiday dessert table.

One thing is certain. If I had $0.001 for every time a piece of catalog copy contained the phrase “perfect addition,” or “perfect complement,” or “perfect treat,” I could fill and refill a swimming pool with Häagen-Dazs every day of the week for the rest of my life. Worse, there isn’t a dessert item on the planet to which this copy couldn’t apply.

And don’t get me started on combining the culturally generic word “holiday” with the culturally specific image of holly leaves. I don’t know very many Chanukah celebrants who could relate to that image—but that’s a topic for another forum.

Blank billboard or relevant resource?
From this hyperlinked billboard, turn now to Kelloggs.com, for a home page created to deliver value to a wide audience. It is, in other words, a place of action and practical information that people can integrate into their lives in real time. And even though it’s fair to say the Kellogg’s product line lends itself to this approach in a way that Häagen-Dazs doesn’t, there’s still no reason for the latter’s Web presence to be so blank.

In contrast, Kellogg’s greets visitors with a wide array of recipes that prove Kellogg’s is not just for breakfast anymore. How do they do it? By going beyond product hawking and taking ownership of family-friendly nutrition. I’ll leave it to nutritionists to determine the actual food value of the recipes found here but, from a messaging stand point, that value is clear.

Using relatively straight-forward means, Kellogg’s expands the meaning of and enriches the story behind the familiar red letters. “Kellogg’s products,” the home page clearly says, “add fun, flavor and family to special occasions and everyday meals.” That it does so without a flat-footed, literal headline (“Kellogg’s: Where America Comes Together for Fun, Flavor and Family”) is the surest sign someone over there knows the difference between Positioning, Message and Copy.

It is, fundamentally, a home page that works hard for you. Assuming Kellogg’s has the wisdom to develop a carefully thought out editorial calendar, the site is now something more than an entry into digital space. It is, in the words of at least one deep thinker on the topic of branding, a “brand extension:” a Kellogg’s product in its own rite.

As my quixotic quest for the perfect home page continues, I’m sure I’ll live through many ups and downs. But unlike the man of La Mancha, I know the windmills I encounter on my quest need not frighten me. That is, unless their product home pages look anything like this.


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Mark Laporta

Writer, Creative Consultant
New York, NY




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