In our meetings with prospective clients, we’re often asked what companies can do to bring their brands to life on their websites. It’s something we’ve spent considerable time doing for the scores of clients we’ve served over the years.
In this article, we look at four important ways your website can better exemplify your brand by taking inspiration from the brand itself. Do it well, and the result will be a website that not only delivers a better user experience, but a more compelling brand experience.
A brand’s core elements can directly inform functionality choices that are at once authentic to the brand and unique in the marketplace.
CamelBak’s Hydration Calculator is a great example of what can happen when you bring brand and functionality together in a smart and highly effective way. CamelBak’s mission is to reinvent and transform the way people hydrate. CamelBak.com thus features a hydration calculator that’s highly useful and true to the brand. Critically, this functionality also attracts a significant number of new-to-brand prospects via organic search—thereby expanding the brand’s reach and creating a steady stream of new opportunities to sell products on the website.
In 2018, HD developed a new brand story for VISIT Milwaukee, Milwaukee’s convention and visitors bureau. The new brand is rooted in the many fun, unique and seemingly random activities the city has to offer. To bring this idea home on the VISIT Milwaukee website, HD designed and developed an activity “randomizer” that provides users with interesting and often surprising suggestions for activities to do in the city. The randomizer takes the form of a virtual slot machine. Users can spin the wheels based on their mood or budget to ensure the resulting recommendations have relevance to them.
CamelBak’s Hydration Calculator brings thousands of new visitors to the brand’s website every month.
VISIT Milwaukee’s “slot machine” randomizer provides visitors to the city with new and sometimes surprising recommendations for activities.
Today, it’s a given that valuable content is indispensable to creating an engaging digital experience. What’s sometimes lost along the way is the importance of looking to the brand to drive a website’s content.
REI is a click-and-mortar retailer that has made a major commitment to offering users highly valuable content through their website. REI is also a powerhouse brand—in part because of leadership’s clarity about what the brand stands for, and its willingness to use that clarity to drive virtually every decision the company makes.
REI exemplifies the power of recognizing and leveraging its brand archetype: the personality and set of characteristics that the brand embodies. (See Margaret Mark and Carol S. Pearson’s The Hero and The Outlaw for their seminal work on applying Jungian archetypes to brand-building.)
REI has done a masterful job of harnessing its “Explorer” archetype via high-utility content that also reinforces the brand’s core attributes. REI.com offers a wealth of content aimed at helping outdoor enthusiasts make the most of their favorite activities—and, of course, helping them choose the right products for said activities. As an early adopter of “How To” as a driving principal for their content, REI has secured top search rankings for a variety of valuable keywords, driving a high volume of organic traffic to their website every month.
As a result, the REI website has become a go-to source of information for active and outdoor consumers. But just as important, the site strengthens the REI brand by demonstrating that REI shares visitors’ beliefs about the value of a life lived outdoors. At every turn, the site experience feels as much like an ongoing dialogue between like-minded “Explorers” as an eCommerce venue for outdoor products.
REI offers valuable expert advice throughout their web experience.
Structure and Navigation
A website’s structure (or taxonomy) is an oft-overlooked component of a site’s brand experience. In particular, a site’s primary navigation is one of its highest-value pieces of real estate. Primary navigation lives on all pages of a site, and is one of the most frequently used elements. Your website’s navigation offers an opportunity to show your audiences how to think about your brand.
Hanson Dodge recently launched a new website for The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW). As an academic medicine organization, MCW serves a diverse set of audiences. The MCW site also contains tens of thousands of content pages. Both of these factors made site taxonomy a critical issue when developing a strategy for the new website redesign.
Needless to say, HD and MCW considered a number of approaches. Ultimately, however, we determined that the brand’s four mission areas—Patient Care, Education, Research and Community Engagement— were so fundamental to powerfully positioning the MCW brand that these four areas were given prominence in the new website navigation.
The new Medical College of Wisconsin website includes a primary navigation scheme that highlights the brand’s four mission areas.
The visual and creative design of a website offers a multitude of ways to convey a brand’s attributes and extend the brand experience.
Nike.com provides a good example of the role that smart, compelling design can play in a website. The website houses multiple global brands and countless content pages. It would be understandable if they succumbed to the urge to pack their visual design with scores of elements to serve the parent brand’s many masters.
However, Nike.com boasts a strikingly streamlined and neutral web design. Perhaps counterintuitively, it is this “lack” of design that allows the content to take center stage—both in terms of available real estate and impact. The site’s minimalist design allows the website to make effective use of the brand’s imagery of popular and recognizable athletes.
On a much more subtle note, we like how LEGO.com replaces the standard “generic profile icon” with a smiling Minifigure. This is a far more subtle design element, but it’s cute and effective, reinforcing the playfulness of the LEGO brand.
Finally, MARS brand M&M’s (mms.com) goes to great lengths to add fun and whimsy to its website design through colorful, creative elements, as well as animations and transitions as users interact with site pages. This complements the brand’s lighthearted, comical content and characters.
Nike’s website design is simple and non-distracting, which gives center stage to rich and powerful photography and videos.
Lego’s use of a Minifigure head instead of a generic profile icon reinforces the playfulness that is at the heart of the Lego brand.
The M&M’s website features a host of fun and whimsical design elements as well as engaging animations and transitions.