My favourite website is www.pedigree.com.au. This might not be unusual, except for the fact that I dont own a dog. And I will not be buying a dog in the near future. So why do I like it? My daughter wants a dog and we regularly go on to complete the get a dog questionnaire and look at the breeds they recommend for us. It is something that we do together and discuss. We print off pictures of her choices. She makes up names for them. They are our virtual pets. At the age of 6, she points out Pedigree in the supermarket and talks about when we will need to buy it.

It is just as engaging for owners with a photo library, dog of the week, e-newsletter updates on promotional offers plus articles on food and nutrition and dog care.

The look and feel of the latest breed (no pun intended) of websites are designed to initiate an emotive response, create confidence in the brand, reflect consumers beliefs and attitudes, and finally, promote the functional benefits of the product.

Traditional low involvement brands are investing in the web heavily to create innovative ways to engage their consumers. It is more than just helping the consumer move through their decision making process or providing post purchase support, it is now about creating customer value, and in turn, loyalty.

Around 5.4 million, or 70 percent of Australian households now have internet access, making us one of the most connected countries in the world. Our access has increased by 200 percent since 2000 and we use the web to keep in touch, get information, shop, browse and armchair travel around the world.

Some products and brands benefited instantly from this new channel of communication and quickly incorporated the web into their consumer marketing and buying decision process. High involvement categories from Cars and Real Estate through to Travel now have several years of web communication under their belt.

And that was what we wanted from the web. Now things are changing. Sites of the 90s relied on information. The next generation of sites relied on the major technology advancements. Then came high entertainment. What now?

www.huggies.com.au has developed a similar type of site to Pedigree. It offers a range of advice, from becoming a parent through to toddler tantrums and toilet training. You can even buy and sell second hand baby goods through their forum, or become a member of the ‘Baby Club’ with special offers and promotions.

And engagement does not have to be facilitated by a direct link between product and consumer interest. Red Bull has always believed in the power of the web – in fact, their overall communication strategy is based around one-on-one engagement. Intensive market profiling has lead to the development of a range of international sites focusing on sport, action and entertainment in the local market.

McDonalds have recently launched a whole new look, specifically designed to be consumer rather than corporate. Visually, it really is outstanding (my personal favourite is the Catch the Nugget game).

Kleenex, Colgate, Smiths and Pringles are all creating micro sites away from their corporate information pages. These sites are fluid, short term and have a specific purpose – most often promoting their latest competition (check out www.whitewinter.com.au).

Volvo, Holden and Mitsubishi have all revamped their sites in the last 12 months, mixing new technology with entertainment and content relevant to their key target markets.

When enough is enough

Sometimes organisations just have so much information they dont know when to say no more! Adding another page/link/section is relatively cheap after the initial development cost, but it doesnt mean it is necessarily right. It goes back to quality over quantity, and providing engaging, relevant information to your customer.

Tourism and travel sites have really got carried away. Jumping on the web wagon very early, initial sites were destination driven, providing potential travellers with facts on how, when and where.

The next step saw tourism turn experiential – particularly leading up to Sydney 2000. Sites were more emotionally enticing as well as practical. Queensland Tourism and Tourism Victoria both raised the stakes in online marketing. Above the line campaigns directed potential travellers to the site for more information, special offers and direct online booking.

But what happened? Queensland still does an exceptional job through www.queenslandholidays.com.au, as does Western Australia. Yet Victoria and New South Wales have fallen into the trap of over supply. I can drive to the Central Coast quicker than I can access information about accommodation. And the amount of choice Victoria offers just tires me out. It all becomes too hard (and they wonder why they are losing domestic market share?).

www.clubmed.com.au is a site that has found the balance between the emotive and the factual (they are a client but we dont do their web work). Their site offers your next holiday selection by experience, destination or activity then profiles each village under these sections. Special offers and online booking encourage a quick decision making process.

Is it for me?

Successful sites all have a few things in common:

  • They have a defined target market allowing the brand to define content that will be engaging for their audience.
  • They view their website as an ongoing investment – not just a one off.
  • They change the message regularly and keep up to date with technology options.
  • They are committed to the web as part of their communication strategy.

When thinking about your move onto the web, remember that content is the key. It will define the tone of your site, which then leads through to design and functionality.

So, what do you want to say?