If you build it, they won't necessarily come

In the 1989 movie Field of Dreams, the hero converts a cornfield at his farm in Iowa into a baseball field, despite being on the verge of bankruptcy and desperately needing the land to grow food.

Sue Unerman is chief strategy officer at MediaCom
Sue Unerman is chief strategy officer at MediaCom

The hero builds the field because he has heard voices saying: "Build it and they will come." After a long period without enough corn, some ghostly players do eventually turn up, and the movie has come to represent the triumph of hope over pragmatism and the power of dreams to change people's lives.

For some time, the "Build it and they will come" line has resonated around our industry as a shortcut for having a strategy for the internet. Marketers have been advised to invest hundreds of thousands of pounds in creating beautiful and playful websites to personify their brands.

Sadly however, brands can build what they like online, but there is no guarantee any consumers will turn up.
And it is certainly no guarantee they will keep coming after an initial visit or that they will buy the product because they like the website.

In some cases, there is a correlation between interacting with a brand's website and buying the product. But in other cases, there is no link: even if your target audience flocks to the website, this may not deliver return on investment.
Consumers might interact with the website of an aspirational car brand for years, but finally decide their shortlist for purchase must be more practical and affordable.

In fact, they may spend time online looking at things they never intend to purchase - this could be why they prefer to interact with the brand digitally.

The websites that are enjoying increasing audiences are social websites such as Facebook and Twitter - and not, by and large, the websites of brands.

The age of what web gurus call "the destination web" has been in decline for some time and is now coming to an end.
It is time for proper clarity over every marketing penny spent and to ensure there is an integrated strategy on and offline.
Before brands make further investment in destination websites, it is essential to consider their role within the overall purchase cycle.

It is a mistake to pour in money simply because every great brand needs a great website to personify itself.

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