With all the recent talk about the “death of the web,” you would think that consumers and marketers are abandoning the humble website like a jilted lover in favor of more attractive options like iPhone apps. And yet two recent examples indicate that leading brands take their websites quite seriously:
- According to the Forbes CMO Network, Disney has revamped the Disney.com website to include the Create portal, a more interactive experience where children can create their own artwork and photo mash-ups using Disney characters and stories. Paul Yanover, executive vice president and managing director of Disney Online, tells Forbes that since last year, more than 2.5 million pieces of unique content have been created on Disney.com as part of a commitment to make the website more of a destination for consumers to create and collaborate with Disney.
- Levi Strauss & Co. has worked with Duke/Razorfish (the French operations of my employer Razorfish) to launch Curve ID, an online fitting experience. Curve ID helps women configure Levi’s denimwear to their own body type. Duke/Razorfish designed Curve ID based on 60,000 women’s figures and launched the experience in 50 countries and 20 languages. Olivier Abel, managing director of Duke/Razorfish, tells me that with Curve ID is more than a website — but a “major product initiative changing the way women choose their jeans” and a shift in thinking from expecting women to find the right size to helping women configure the right fit. (For more information about Curve ID, these Brand Republic and Brand Channel articles are helpful.)
Too often the “web is dead” hype paints the story in black and white either/or terms. Either we’re visiting websites or using mobile devices. We’re making purchasing decisions online or in stores. In fact, consumers incorporate many touch points to learn about brands. They don’t choose one or the other. (Eight out of 10 consumers surveyed by Razorfish in 2009 still obtain news primarily from websites in addition to other platforms.)
Instead of making either/or choices, smart brands are figuring out how to connect these touch points, as Forrester Research has reported time and again. In the same article about Disney’s revamped Disney.com, Paul Yanover tells Forbes that Disney is figuring out how to extend its digital experience across mobile devices and social platforms like YouTube. Levi’s Curve ID offers visitors the option of configuring and purchasing denim online or in-store. And the Razorfish San Francisco office just launched the Polyvore Community Challenge, a contest in which consumers can win Levi’s Curve ID jeans by creating and nominating their own digital clothing ensembles on a community site. Consumers can post designs on their own social sites like Facebook.
As Rachel Lanham, Razorfish vice president and Levi’s client partner, tells me, “The Polyvore Community Challenge is similar to Disney Create because it’s all about getting the consumer involved and engaged in telling the brand story. Consumers make the brand theirs on their own platforms, sometimes on a brand website and in other cases on a social site.”
Another Razorfish client, Axe, recently worked with Razorfish to make its Axe Effect website a hub linking all the social properties where consumers interact with Axe.
But making a brand experience flourish across multiple platforms is just part of the story. Companies like Axe, Coors Light, Disney, Levi’s, and Mercedes-Benz are turning their websites into playful experiences by continuing to apply rich media and 3D technology. Consumers can get those rich experiences from games and movies now. It’s only natural that the website evolves, too.
Maybe a better way to describe what’s happening is not death but rebirth: websites evolving from disconnected islands of information to experiences connected across many platforms.