Note: This article was originally published on iMediaConnection.com.
More so than ever before, progressive companies today are exploring the use of experimental digital marketing to help them gain an edge over their competitors. Explore how organizations are leveraging technologies from companies like Microsoft and Adobe to build next-generation online experiences for innovative and experimental marketing.
There are many different kinds of experimental marketing techniques in the arsenal of a digital marketer today. However, I would like to focus on one particular kind of digital marketing tactic today, which is to leverage rich interactive user experiences to market your brand. This tactic can potentially not only increase customer loyalty, but also improve customer interaction as well as increase lead generation.
The idea is simple, although it’s easier said than done:
- Build an online website, which may be a long-term micro site or an extension of one’s main company website.
- The website is commonly promoted as a online reference or even a game, instead of a glorified online brochure.
- Most importantly, this website must offer users an experience that is so cool, that they will have a reason to come back again and again, even though they may already be familiar with your company or product.
A good example of a forward-looking company which successfully leveraged this tactic is Hard Rock International.
Hard Rock Memorabilia
Since its inception in 1971, Hard Rock Café has accumulated over 70,000 pieces of rock memorabilia, which is physically scattered all around the world in its 146 restaurants and venues. In late 2007, Duncan/Channon, Hard Rock International’s worldwide marketing agency, proposed that its client share that collection – beyond the confines of its Cafes, Hotels and Casinos – with the entire world. This would also help Hard Rock to emphasize the authenticity of the company’s brand and to differentiate it from mass-market theme restaurants and hotel chains.
Duncan/Channon, together with interactive agency Vertigo, built the Hard Rock Memorabilia website using Microsoft’s Silverlight and Deep Zoom technology to bring users a unique online museum experience showcasing close to 900 pieces of the company’s memorabilia.
What is unique about this Webby-honored virtual museum is that the technology literally allows the users to zoom in and interact with the displayed objects in a way that is both unique and natural. Beyond horizontal and vertical scrolling, viewers can seamlessly zoom in – extremely close – to an object or group of objects to inspect its every detail and to learn the history behind that object. Over 2 billion pixels worth of memorabilia images were available on the site for inspection by the users using a simple user interface.
Here are five reasons why the Hard Rock Memorabilia site was successful as a digital marketing tool:
- By empowering the users to closely inspect and interact with the memorabilia, the technology helped build an online experience which was able to capture the tangible spirit of rock ‘n’ roll. As Sean Dee, Chief Marketing Officer at Hard Rock International said, “Hard Rock’s Memorabilia site reinforces that our brand stands for that personal, authentic connection fans have with rock ‘n’ roll music and its heroes.”
- As an online museum that constantly keeps its contents up-to-date, the Hard Rock Memorabilia site gave users ample reason to return to the site, and to develop loyalty with the brand. The site launched in early 2008 with only 500 items and gradually grew to the 900 items on display today, which resulted in an increase in site stickiness.
- It also helped attract new visitors to Hard Rock’s website solely based on the attraction of the memorabilia museum. After the memorabilia site launched in early 2008, the Alexa ranking for the entire hardrock.com domain improved by about 50%.
- The fun and interactive way the content is displayed in the virtual museum also dramatically improved the average time spent per user on the Hard Rock website. The more time users spent on the memorabilia website, the more time users will likely spend on the rest of the Hard Rock website.
- Finally, the memorabilia museum also acted as a useful lead generation and referral tool. Every single piece of memorabilia is marked with the physical Hard Rock location that the item is located at. Users who are interested can follow direct URL links to the various Hard rock venues to conveniently find out information about the venue for an offline visit. Some items even provide direct URL links to the Hard Rock online store, thus giving the user a convenient way to make a purchase.
Building a rich and sticky web presence may not be an easy or cheap undertaking, but if it is done right, it can be a potentially rewarding one. As Hard Rock has clearly demonstrated, a well-executed online digital initiative can yield a very real and tangible ROI. Finally, web technologies from companies like Microsoft and Adobe are readily available today for companies to jumpstart the development of their own rich interactive websites.