Morphing Brands with the Magic of Action

Today, it’s just understood that Web site viability is directly related to how well you regulate the flow of traffic to your content. Now, let’s assume you’ve already implemented a formidable array of strategies and tactics to achieve that goal. The success of your efforts still boils down to the same issues it did when the Web first began to spin in earnest:

Can you deliver content your audience cares about?

That’s why one of the most perplexing phenomenon in digital space is the persistence of static, descriptive sites devoted to everyday commodities like snack foods and drinks.

Case in point is Keebler.com. Keebler, the venerable American brand, apparently believes its products are best sold by description only. Branded messaging? Consumer engagement? Talk to the elves.

That’s right, here before us is a multipage Web site relying only on standard-issue marketing copy and a pale remnant of a general advertising campaign from the late 1960s. Worse, all it has to offer are lists— of products, ingredients and generic product attributes like “freshness.”

Ironically, what the Keebler site doesn’t offer is a motivating list of brand values. Considering how much consumers have heard about the negative impact of snack foods, this lack of counterbalance is a glaring omission. Besides, the fix is simple: We all know cookies do deliver demonstrable benefits in moderation, like encouraging convivial conversation—or making a 3-year-old smile.

Just as important, there’s nothing here to distinguish Keebler, on the face of it, from any other cookie cutter—unless you believe in the power of elves.

Lo-res legacy branding.
Trouble is, in 2014, elf iconography has evolved past the old cherubic stereotype, after passing through a series of post-modern interpretive filters. The elves depicted in the Harry Potter series are benevolent, but downtrodden, even pathetic. By contrast, elves in Lord of the Rings—as seen by millions in Peter Jackson’s film versionare dignified, powerful aesthetes with a high moral purpose. Neither embody Keebler’s folksy wholesomeness.

So what used to pass as more nuanced brand avatars than their predecessors Charlie the Tuna and Tony the Tiger, now contribute no recognizable attributes to the brand. Today, “Keebler” reads only as “cookies.”

On the other hand, maybe this is all the marketing Keebler actually needs, as the second largest US cookie manufacturer with a 24% market share. And that begs the question of why, if you’re a top cookie maker, you’d bother to have a Web presence at all.

Unless, of course, you have the slightest desire to be Number 1. In that case, your site must motivate consumers at a time when Web validation is rapidly becoming the only kind that counts. In practical terms, that means giving users something to do when they arrive at your home page, exactly the tack taken by Yoplait. Remember, involvement in brand means participation—and participation means taking action.

Built for action.
For starters, Yoplait evokes familiar sharing spaces like Pinterest or Tumblr, with a user interface also evocative of the tap-and-swipe environment of the mobile web. Here’s a mobile-friendly home page, whose low-bandwidth flattened buttons fit reasonably well, unchanged, into the context of a 5″ screen.

It just makes sense. Given the lightning-fast adoption of the smart phone by millions of Americans, you might hazard the assumption that one key factor—the phone’s ability to facilitate favorite or addictive behaviors—continues to fuel the trend toward continuous smart phone engagement beyond the limits of safety.

In fact, Yoplait’s content map addresses that action-oriented mindset directly. Whether you’re in it for health benefits, taste or the convenience of a product that purports to provide both, Yoplait has made action and involvement its primary messaging platform.

Not to say Keebler.com is devoid of user engagement. Like Yoplait.com, the Keebler site features recipes. But a straight comparison of their approach says a mouthful:

I’ll leave it to you to decide which is more inviting, inclusive and inciting.

A brand image in sharper definition.
Ultimately, the distinctions I’ve made between two messaging strategies ladder up to conclusions about how you define your brand for your audience.

“What is Yoplait?” the yogurtenuer appears to ask. Refreshingly, the answer is not “the finest ingredients and our dedication to quality” It is, instead:

“Yoplait is the yogurt you need it to be and we’re right there with you.
Because nobody’s crazier about yogurt than we are.”

As such, this site is the very exemplar of a brand morphing its image: From a plant that makes products for sale, Yoplait has become a community of like-minded people with a shared passion. And for my money, that’s a kind of magic no elf can hope to muster.


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Mark Laporta

Writer, Creative Consultant
New York, NY




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