Is Social Media Making Brand Websites Redundant?

Bacardi’s recent decision to shift its digital marketing focus away from campaign websites to social media may on the face of it seem to be a bold and brave move.

 

However, given the marked decline in the number of visitors to its brand websites over the last year, perhaps it’s not completely unexpected: visitor numbers fell by 77% during the period, prompting many to ask the question that would’ve seemed unthinkable 2 years ago. Is social media responsible for the demise of the brand website?

The company has announced that over the course of the next 18 months it is to shift 90% of its digital marketing to Facebook: all branded content will be shared primarily through such online communities, with paired-back, dotcom sites remaining only for its brands – Bacardi, Bombay Sapphire and Grey Goose.

Perhaps it shouldn’t have come a too much of a surprise. Things needed to change, and Bacardi are certainly not going to be the last company to try this new approach. Ian Crocombe, planning director at digital agency AKQA explained: “corporate sites made sense in web 1.0 when companies drove traffic to their sites with landing pages, banners and collected email addresses. Modern consumers are engaged by real-time, social digital experiences which transcend device and are powered by location.”

The trend was first set by Nike who launched its real-time digital football experience for the World Cup 2010: exclusive content was delivered for 4.6 million football fans via online communities. Honda likewise shifted the focus of its online marketing, constructing content that was more modular and could be shared across multiple platforms. Bacardi’s decision therefore already had precedent. However, does this shift in marketing emphasis from brand websites to social media have to absolute? Is it always a question of either- or?

The answer is, unsurprisingly, that it really depends on the circumstances.

If companies already have a transactional relationship with customers, then there is still life in the old dog that is the brand website. However, it’s counter-productive to invest large resources in a destination website and not back that up with online activity that engages audiences: many people spend more time online than off, after all.

Social media has an enormous and faithful following, so it makes sense financially for any company to utilise this: well –researched, branded content, can engage audiences and persuade them to buy into the idea of the brand. Similarly, a brand-owned property like a website can still be capable of offering an immersive experience for brand loyalists. So maybe the picture isn’t quite as black and white as some might have us believe. Perhaps there still is a future for the brand website, but like everything else in the marketing world, it will have to evolve if it is to survive and prosper.

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