A new wave of microsites demonstrates the versatility of what has long been a conventional digital marketing device. Microsites can serve multiple purposes, and play numerous roles. There's room to spare for these persuasive mainstays in modern-day campaigns.
The concept of a brand microsite is as akin to that of a search campaign landing page: it's the most direct route between an ad and a product, or an ad and related campaign content. The popularity of these themed, sometimes time-sensitive destinations has taken a hit in recent years, due in large part to social media. Many a digital marketer has chosen to drive ad traffic to a campaign-specific Facebook page, as opposed to a standard Web site. Some even prefer to steer consumers toward Twitter content by way of a campaign hashtag.
That isn't to say microsites aren't a viable option. This year saw numerous brands enlist microsites to help them lift their exposure online. Instead of adopting the standard approach, these new mini sites integrate social media and community to deliver a more holistic - and thoroughly customized - experience. The result is a progressive blend of functionality and branded content that takes marketing with microsites to the next level.
The Campaign Microsite: Catching Jeremy
In an effort to promote its recent elimination of overseas data charges, wireless carrier T-Mobile created a contest that invited consumers to help a couple catch up with their son Jeremy as he traveled Europe racking up charges with a different mobile provider. Episodic TV spots pointed viewers to catchjeremy.com, a microsite at which players could find clues to Jeremy's current whereabouts using character tweets and Instagram photos. The campaign also included a branded BuzzFeed page aimed at 20-something travelers, and T-Mobile frequently referenced the campaign as a whole on its Twitter feed and Facebook page.
What made this microsite work was that it operated in real time. Clues were updated on a regular basis, and contest participants had a limited daily entry period within which to retrieve them. Catchjeremy.com came to mimic a social site by requiring users' attention and providing time-sensitive content. Not only did its limited shelf life make it more engaging, but it effectively boosted the excitement surrounding the campaign.
The Collaborative Microsite: Made Co.
Marketing to kids is a challenge, so Honey Maid Honey Grahams made a campaign of a microsite, supporting the effort with display banners and TV spots. Called Made Co., the open-ended microsite invites children to submit their great ideas for the chance to see their products get "made."
Honey Maid partners with organizations like HarperCollins and Phineas and Ferb to help facilitate product production. Chosen ideas are showcased in conjunction with photos and videos. While social media integration is limited due to the young age of the site's users, Made Co. still comes off as a kid-centric aspirational community, with Honey Maid acting as the content delivery middleman.
Because the campaign is ongoing, there's plenty to keep users coming back for more. Part of the strategy of focusing on creativity in production and design is to promote Honey Maid's own new products. These are cleverly highlighted throughout the site and integrated with editorial content in the style of a native ad. Lines like, "What we've always made, classic S'mores" follow a video detailing "Jazmin's fashion line." Ultimately, Made Co. serves the dual purpose of showcasing brand/consumer collaboration along with Honey Maid's product line.
The Culture Microsite: FILA is
FILA this year launched a microsite that aims to do it all: showcase products while profiling designers and distributors in order to inform and entertain fans. The site uses a storytelling format to take consumers inside the sneaker culture and familiarize them with the lifestyle associated with the FILA brand.
Social media is a key feature of this microsite, but unlike many mini sites, this one acts as a gateway to additional branded content. There's a film series called, "Rise of the Independents," and the microsite links to FILA's blog and Instagram page along with Facebook and Twitter. In essence, FILAis.com embodies a brand site homepage, providing alternative navigational paths specific to each user's needs. Fans know exactly where to go to get the latest FILA content, wherever else it might live.
This new wave of microsites demonstrates the versatility of what has long been a conventional digital marketing device. Microsites can serve multiple purposes, and play numerous roles. There's room to spare for these persuasive mainstays in modern-day campaigns.
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Tessa Wegert is a business reporter and former media strategist specializing in digital. In addition to writing for ClickZ since 2002, she has contributed to such publications as USA Today, Marketing Magazine, Mashable, and The Globe and Mail. Tessa manages marketing and communications for Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy agencies servicing such brands as Bioré, Food Network, illy, and Hunter Douglas. She has been working in online media since 1999.
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