The Home Page Opportunity (3)

[December 2, 2010]

In mainstream American culture, when meeting a person for the first time, you reasonably expect a handshake or a wave and a ritual greeting.

From “how’s it going?” to “pleased to meet you,” a token greeting gives us a chance to process the heady rush of new input we receive from every fresh face. And though you may hover a bit longer in ritual space (“Love your outfit!”) the conversation is officially launched with both parties feeling safe and respected.

By analogy, a great many home pages remind me of people who skip the hellos and go straight to the details of their latest medical problem. Typical of this genre is DishNetwork.com. It greets consumers with a raggedy assemblage of jarring messages, each of which boils down to:


And if the implied messaging weren’t unsettling enough, what the site says explicitly is hardly more welcoming. “Dish Network Gives You Something to Cheer About.” screams a prominent headline on 12-2-10.

Nebulous redundancies about “something.”
In fact, in the annals of advertising I doubt any word has proven less effective than “something.” If we’re to believe that brands have only seconds to capture attention, you’d think more people would realize the need for specifics. Yes, the line accompanies a stock photo of a family cheering a televised football game. But far from making that headline more specific, this photo only makes the headline more redundant. 

So, despite the cluttered fuss and bother on its home page, all DishNetwork manages to convey is that it offers TV shows in attractively-priced bundles. Without the benefit of a hot-tub time machine, I’m afraid this is not newsworthy information. Excitement? Engagement? Reason to Believe? Reason Not to Click Away? I don’t think so. 

Finally, after a long lag, the obligatory marquee slide show gets around to talking about “True Integration of Web and TV.” Hmm. Maybe I’ll go dial up Hulu or visit GoogleTV on my own.

Even allowing for the special requirements of a merchandising site, DishNetwork.com is a fiasco. I can’t imagine why anyone who wasn’t already sold on the product would be moved to try it after viewing this home page. Fortunately, for the general health of the digital marketing ecosystem, other brands walk the sell / brand tightrope more nimbly.

Specific revelations about you.
Existing in a niche near the opposite end of the spectrum, Clifbar.com comes much closer to striking that balance. With relatively simple means, Clifbar immerses visitors in the ambiance of the adventure travel experience. Without once saying “We have the energy bar you need to meet your energy bar needs,” it guides users efficiently through its quirky product line with sign posts grounded in the physical world.

More to the point, the site talks to its audience. I defy anyone not to feel the authenticity of its branded voice, one that is, nevertheless, carefully crafted to encapsulate an appealing worldview. Weaving in and out of traditional catalog/promotion-speak are flashes of character, the spirit of the site. 

That this character is also reflected in the brand’s ecological bent—and the modest effort it makes to have an impact—simply illustrates one of the unsung principles of better advertising: Great brands have better advertising because they have more substance and there’s simply more to advertise.

But even from the nuts and bolts perspective, the home page at Clifbar.com functions better than many. That’s because it draws niche visitors in with recognizable symbols from their own world. 

For this is a site that isn’t merely aimed at a target, it’s about that target, about its worldview, everyday experience and, most important, its dreamscape. In advertising, it’s never enough to give customers what they think they want. You also have to give them what you know they crave.


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Mark Laporta

Writer, Creative Consultant
New York, NY




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