Richa Vij

How effective are branded websites?

Branded micro sites are getting popular with marketers, but are they creating these sites just for the heck of it or are they really effective?

The idea of promoting a new product offering through a branded website is clicking with many brands today. A branded 'micro' site may be a part of the corporate website of the brand, but has its own web address. As opposed to the corporate website of the brand, micro sites are used to promote and highlight a specific product or campaign.

Companies such as Procter & Gamble, MTV, National Geographic, HUL, Tata Motors, General Motors, PepsiCo and Perfetti are leveraging the online medium through micro sites, to connect with their audiences. Micro sites have the advantage of being based on a particular campaign's objectives and not necessarily on the company's long-term strategy.

A destination point

How effective are branded websites?
CVS Sharma, senior vice-president and director of direct marketing agency Arc Worldwide, explains why it is imperative to have a micro site for online campaigns. "Every online campaign needs a destination point for banners which have a click-through link. Having only the corporate website as the destination point for all campaigns becomes ineffective, especially for multi-objective and multi-brand campaigns,” he says. He adds that micro sites are very central and crucial to the success of an online display ad.

In fact, the absence of a micro site or destination point may leave the customer unsatisfied due to the lack of information, and may have an impact on the call to action. Micro sites provide excellent support for online marketing tools such as direct mail campaigns, banner ads and viral videos.

How effective are branded websites?
Protex Happydent micro site
Sometimes, micro sites can evolve in to much larger sites based on their engagement with the audience. HSBC Bank wanted to do something similar and the company did so by creating a micro site, The site attempts to solicit visitors' solution to the world's environmental problems in the form of written comments and videos. Lakshmi Goyal, head of brand, media and market research, HSBC India, says "HSBC's strategy of using content created with the consumer as the key protagonist is a good example. The site recorded more than 7,200 videos in just six days".

Digital agency Webchutney's founder and CEO, Sidharth Rao, cites the example of Perfetti, "We launched an interactive micro site for Perfetti Protex Happydent chewing gum in order to promote the brand. We created a viral 'Daddu ki amanat' for the product and a contest-based interactive game and hosted both on the micro site. It has been one of our most successful campaigns.”

How effective are branded websites?
CVS Sharma
Sushant Dash, deputy GM, marketing, Tata Tea, explains why
created a micro site when it planned to launch Tetley Green Tea targeted at health-conscious women. "A micro site helps you create an atmosphere -- it conveys the full attitude and a complete understanding about the brand,” he says.

The Tetley Green Tea micro site, which is connected to the Tetley's corporate website, lets people participate in a health quiz and offers them an opt-in opportunity to taste the new brand by registering for a free Green Health Tea pack. Nearly 44,000 women visited the micro site and more than 7,000 women registered for the brand experience, according to Dash.

Is there a shelf-life?

How effective are branded websites?
Sidharth Rao
The limitation of micro sites is that they may go dead once a campaign is over, which ruins the consumer-brand relationship that the micro site had managed to build. Says, Rao, "In India, it is common for a micro site to be consigned to obscurity pretty soon once a campaign is done".

Leroy Alvares, country head, Tribal DDB India, says, "A micro site's life is slightly longer than the campaign depending on how it is designed and what components it has. It creates word-of-mouth for a campaign. It's a branding activity."

How effective are branded websites?
Leroy Alvares
Dash believes that a micro site can be kept alive for longer. "The site can be created for a one-time buzz or you can update it and continue it for long-term. We continuously update the Tetley Green Tea micro site with new contests, quizzes,” he says.

Goyal believes that whether the micro site has a shelf life or not depends upon the objective it has been set up for. She says, "Sites that are made with a strong insight and consumer proposition connect with the consumer and last for a long duration".

The cost factor

For a micro site to be successful, it has to be promoted through cross-media platforms. And that involves ad spends. Shantanu Sirohi, co-founder and head of strategy, Interactive Avenues, says, "In our experience, a cost range of Rs 3-15 lakh would suffice for most clients. Popularising it again involves a Rs 30-40 lakh online campaign for a four-week promotion.”

Perfetti had also created another micro site,, which was promoted largely on online media and on radio. Namita Gupta, group product manager, Perfetti Van Melle, says, "We spent less than Rs 20 lakh to popularise the site".

It does seem that micro sites have become de rigueur for most online campaigns. The challenge for brands now is to ensure that these sites give them maximum mileage and leave a lasting impression on the target audience.

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