Journey to Bannerania (3)

[June 29, 2012]

Though digital success is often measured in terms of click through, a large percentage of digital objects don’t get any. Here’s why. In the frenzy to “top-line” the message, a great many brands try to tell the whole story upfront. But if your message is that explicit, why would anyone need a click to “learn more?” They get it already, you want to sell them something.

Imagine a retail sales rep who’s opening line to you was,

“Now you can save up to 50% on your next microwave!”

…when you only came in to buy a set of dishes.

That’s a scattershot approach to sales that would only appeal to customers with no social skills and an obsession with houseware discounts.

Fortunately, a more open-ended approach is fairly universal in the offline world. That’s because sales is about seduction, and seduction goes from the general to the specific, not the other way around—something a talented sales rep understands intuitively.

So if increasing click-throughs is that nagging item on your to-do list that never gets scratched off, you might want to rethink your approach to online engagement.

False premise.
Now, chances are, you look at your banner, advertorial, page take over, etc. as the perfect analogue of in-store signage. You may even expect such signage to be more effective in digital space, because it’s “interactive.”

I’d like to suggest the root of the click-through problem lies in the fact that this is a false analogy. To users roving hither and yon over digital space, your banner isn’t merely your signage, it’s the entire store. After all, in the largely unarticulated landscape of boxes that characterize the overwhelming majority of our Web pages, your banner is as much a point of arrival as any Web site’s home page.

Add to that the familiar home page layout, which includes a banner-like object centered in the marquee, and you reach the heart of the dilemma. The headline-in-a-box formula is so ubiquitous, it’s the visual equivalent of background noise. So much for effective signage and so much less for an engaging, branded experience.

Making matters worse, the standard promotional banner has too narrow a focus to be welcoming and does nothing to remind its audience why they should care about the brand.

“Save up to $25 on a product you can’t remember the value of,” these banners scream. When coupled with legal lingo to the effect that terms and conditions apply, you’ve created a classic Later-for-That Scenario. Why should a customer click through unless he or she is ready to buy right now? And if the offer is tied to joining something, it’s all over.

False promise.
In most cases, becoming a member of the XYZ Support Program is to fall victim to a flood of emails with cardboard advice like “Reward yourself for taking your medication.” In the current climate, it doesn’t take consumers long to realize you’ve collected their personal data for your own selfish reasons. 

So if you’re going to include digital banners in your marketing mix, realize that they come with baggage—a 15-year legacy of disappointment—growing out of their failure to make a meaningful human connection.

OK, I’m familiar with the line of logic to got us where we are today. It’s the line about hard-hitting, no-nonsense, short-and-sweet, just-the-facts communication that gets results. It’s a line of logic that’s repeated regardless of whether those results are ever forthcoming. Why? 

Because—and only because—it narcissistically reflects what many of industry professionals would like to believe about themselves: That every day, they slam a cup of mocha java down on their desks and get stuff done!

Walk away from denial.
If you’re up against the wall with click-through rates that no amount of regressive analysis can spin, try a counter-intuitive tack. Instead of shoving an offer in your customers’ faces, set up an intriguing premise that grows naturally out of your brand narrative and gives your customers a reason to “learn more.” Then reward that click with entertainment, exclusive content, or a thoroughly original point of view about topics close to their hearts.

Show them a good time, in other words, and they just might take you up on your offer. And along the way, they’ll have absorbed so much more about your brand message than you’d ever be able to cram into one of those pointlessly limited 720 x 90s with just enough room to scrawl HURRY WHILE SUPPLIES LAST.


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Mark Laporta

Writer, Creative Consultant
New York, NY




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