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Brands are increasingly investing in sub-brands to diversity with less risk or penetrate deeper into niche markets. Giants brands have taken this approach including Adidas with Adidas Original and Quicksilver with Roxy. The most famous example being that of Virgin.

Virgin is a master of creating micro-brands to safety release products and diversify into new markets. The Virgin Group is a very strong brand, founded on strong characteristics including industry disruption, quality services, innovation, and last but not least, a sense of fun. This philosophy is embodied by the company's founder, Sir Richard Branson, who has applied the Virgin values to all of its subsidiary brands.

So whilst Virgin started in the record and music industry, it was able to find success in various other domains such as travel, mobile phones, airlines, games, financial services, films, internet, television, cosmetics, radio and more... The brand was so strong that their characteristics were automatically transferred to all new ventures. Ultimately this has served to strengthen the group itself and add consistency and diversity to the company.

The modern internet age has its own trend in regards to sub-brands and these are called micro-sites. Nowadays, many companies have a different site for each micro-brand, which adds benefits to not only the brand as a whole but also each entity within it. These sites are very targeted and concentrate on a specific product or service.

 

The following is a list of some of the other benefits of a micro-site:

 

The UX is in the Detail

With less information to distract users on a microsite, companies can provide more detail on each product and its reason for being.

 

Avoid Overcrowding

Some sites are overcrowded and this seriously affects the navigation of the site. This makes it difficult to complete the action users came to achieve lowering conversions. A microsite solves the issue by offloading product categories from the primary website, to another more streamlined and specific site.

 

Target Audience

The more targeted the site, the more likely people are to be engaged by it.  With a clear understanding of a smaller user group, call to actions and content can be tailored to increase interaction and user experience satisfaction.

 

Create a Community

A micro-site is a great opportunity to get people talking about your product or topic, without diluting your message with alternative products or the parent brands associated characteristics.

 

A Strengthened Parent Brand

Creating a micro-site for one product can allow you to become a specialist in that domain. Having a stronger position in one market can then strengthen the entire brand allowing for more risk without damaging alternative brand extensions.

 

Common Uses of Microsites

Stand Alone Collections and Campaigns

Microsites are most commonly used for stand-alone collections or brands from a company. This may be for a sub-product range, a collaboration with a designer, a holiday campaign, or even for an experimental range, best separated from the wider company.

 

Corporate Social Responsibility

Another increasingly popular use is for repositioning through corporate social responsibility. There are many examples of this, but the finest for me seems to be Starbucks.Starbucks has often been used as a symbol of capitalism. In an attempt to improve their brand image and become and socially responsible company, Starbucks has used CSR to great effect and has given each cause its own micro-site. The three micro-sites Starbucks have are:V2v.net/starbucks - This is a site dedicated to the partnership between Starbucks and v2v, a social network that promotes direct contact among volunteers.starbucks.com/sharedplanet/ - This is a project dedicated to the way Starbucks buy their coffee, minimising their environmental footprint and their involvement in local communities.red.starbucks.com - This site is about Starbuck's partnership with Product Red, the brand created by U2 singer Bono. This aims to help fight AIDS in Africa.These micro-site campaigns are extremely effective ways of improving the Starbucks image and ensuring that they are viewed as a socially responsible company, engaging in activities to better their environment and everybody they are involved with.

 

Tribal Community Development

Micro-sites can be used to appeal to a very specific target market, championing traits that may be unfavored by the primary corporate branding. In the era of social media, users enjoy seeking out sub-communities to identify and bond with, developing a tribal bond around the interest that brought them together. A classic example of this is the way Punks adopted Doc Martins as an emblem of their image or Vans with skaters. Ensuring the microsite has sound technical development allows it to nurture a comments base and interactions enforcing the tribal state.

A community-driven micro-site, is a great opportunity to increase traffic, strengthen a brand, create a long-lasting brand image, engage an audience and generate results. There are many platforms which are commonly used to create strong communities including Joomla, WordPress, Drupal and more.The benefits of a micro-site are numerous and when used in the right situations and context, the improvement in results can be tremendous. With people becoming more and more aware of their image and their impact on the environment, it seems micro-sites that address Corporate and Social Responsibility are extremely good tools. If you succeed in first of all engaging the end user and then getting them to interact and communicate through your site, the benefits will be endless and your website will be successful.

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About the author

Paul Johnson
Paul Johnson
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As a company director, Paul is responsible for leading our strategy in relation to culture and people. This work has strongly contributed to our enviable staff retention levels. His pragmatic approach, combined with a development career spanning two decades, is a valuable asset to clients approaching challenging and large scale digital projects. These include SONY Pictures Entertainment, King's College London, Travelodge, Great Ormond Street Hospital.

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