Should the website be at the heart of your planning strategy?

In a conference a while back, I saw Nike present their planning models. They talked about moving social media to the centre of their planning process:

Nate Elliott at Forrester thinks that the website should be at the heart of a brand’s ecosystem:

brand ecosystem

The idea is that the channels on the outer ring drive traffic into your website – and at the same time content is pushed out from your website and into social channels where prospects engage with your content and then hopefully click back into your site.

This is how it is meant to work:

traffic flow for brand ecosystem

Nate at Forrester goes on to say:

It’s time to replace this old-fashioned TV-first model of campaign development with one that starts by focusing on our deepest, most trusted marketing channel: interactive. It’s time for us to start building multilayered brand ecosystems that put interactive tools at the core:

  • First, engage users on your own web site. Nearly every audience we’ve studied says it trusts a marketer’s own site more than any other marketing channel — including offline advertising and social media. Use this trust to build a site that shows users what your brand stands for. And rather than just deliver content here, pull social experiences (like blogs, communities, or Facebook Connect) into your site to make it more interesting and useful to your audience. This will be the place where your brand makes its biggest impact.
  • Second, distribute your content and engagement into social and mobile media. Just because Facebook and other social platforms aren’t at the very heart of your ecosystem doesn’t mean they’re not a crucial part of how you communicate with your audience. Choose pieces of the content and interaction from your site and push them out into the social (and, if appropriate, the mobile) channels your customers prefer. Your brand probably won’t make quite as big an impact through social tools as it does on your own site — but social platforms will make your brand accessible to users who don’t find their way to your site.
  • Third, reach a broad audience with paid media. The challenge of owned media (like your web site and your social platforms) is that it rarely generates significant scale. If you want to get your message out to millions of people rather than thousands, you’ll need to buy both online and offline paid media. This is where your brand will make its smallest impact on any given person, so focus on using the scale of paid media to talk about the brand story you’ll telling on your web site and to drive users back to that site by promoting the URL.

Mike Teasdale at Harvest Digital has said:

TV will often give us rich visual content to play with – but what we really need in the digital realm is a creative idea that encourages interactivity and engagement.

I liked this thought in particular:

Putting the website at the heart of the interactive brand ecosystem forces us to think about what kind of creative idea will turn a browser into a buyer.

However, he doesn’t see this as a one size fits all approach

Last year I saw Tom Bedecarre, the chairman of AKQA, speak at a conference and his view was that for many brands there was no point in creating a standalone brand website – they should instead be focusing on creating branded experiences on Facebook.

Back to the Nike model then? ….not for an ecommerce site as Mike points out:

There’s a pretty good argument for that for FMCG brands, but I’m nervous about this approach where you have a transactional website – I think you would normally want to bring traffic to the point where they can actually buy.

Nick Ellsom comments on Mike’s post by saying:

I would alter that [Forrester’s] diagram [above] by having the brand in the centre as the core but with the site wrapped around it as the site should reflect exactly the brand values and experience as it is the one place where everything is under your control. The reason the site isn’t at the centre is because most businesses do not operate only in the online world and hence consumers are interacting with them through their physical as well as virtual presence.

The other thing to say is that brands can achieve their objectives in many different ways and whilst the website is a good way to do this, there are many other ways which means consumers don’t necessarily need to visit the site in order to deliver value to the brand. Any brand interaction wherever it happens is going to influence your perceptions whether that be in a positive or negative way, so the real answer is that a brand needs to look after each touch point with equal care, whereas certain channels are catered to far more than others as you are alluding to.

We are half way between the old model and the new at the moment so it’s all a bit messy, with the traditional mediums still focussing on the big idea whilst digital channels are more focussed on personalisation and relevance which is pretty much the polar opposite. Until this has been played out and the new model is adopted by the more traditional channels, we will continue to be in this limbo in my view.

via The interactive brand ecosystem revisited and how to build an interactive brand ecosystem