Your website stinks!

Creative Commons License photo credit: jere-me

Picture this internal monologue in the mind of a prospective customer…

Argh, time to renew my home insurance again.

What was the TV ad I saw with the special deal if I switch to them? The one with the singing pig…

Bah, I’ll Google it…’l-o-w c-o-s-t h-o-m-e i-n-s-u-r-a-n-c-e’…

Hmmm, was it this one? [click]…that rings a bell…not sure though…

What about this one? [click]… No, don’t think so but it has kind of got the same deal…can’t be bothered to keep searching, I’ll give it a go…

What you were just privy to there, was the thought process of your potential customer as they walked out the [digital] door.

The galling thing was that it was your website they were looking at first. They looked but didn’t stop because they weren’t sure it was the one they were looking for. There was no reference to the deal, and no pig in sight. This happens every day, across all industries and products, no matter whether its ads on TV, print, radio, or outdoor media.

Why? What’s missing?


Follow your nose

We’re not talking some kind of new fangled sniff-o-vision or those perfume inserts in magazines. Scent refers to the visual clues that the individual uses to connect – and carry over – brand elements from one medium to another. This can be images, taglines, logos, calls to action or any other significant identifier that is used consistently.

Scent is essential when drawing customers from your offline media to online, as there is inevitably a chasm in the process where they must leap from the advert to your website. Those that are smart build bridges to aid the customer across – they place the URL in the ad – but even that is reliant on memory or the ad being to hand. It is the scent, the recognition of the visual clues, which reassures and builds confidence within the customer, presenting opportunities for conversion.

With digital media the problem is slightly different. Thankfully, the hero of the internet – the humble hyperlink – not only carries them across the bridge, it does so in the blink of an eye, removing – or at least limiting – pesky distractions.

No, the problem digital media experiences is less Herculean than the path the offline conversion treads. It’s laziness. Unfortunately, despite the ability to harness the power of the link to carefully shepherd the customer down our conversion funnel, we internet marketers have a tendency to brain-fart at times and take our carefully segmented, behavioural targeted prospects and dump them on our generic, catch all homepage.

Whilst the potential customer knows they’re on the right website, it hardly helps the conversion process if they experience no correlation between the two mediums.

The Sniff Test

Whether its on- or offline media, we need to ensure the scent flows from one media to the next  – consistency is key.

If you run an ad campaign – TV, print, email, display, whatever – featuring a singing pig, make damn sure that pig is smiling up at you when you hit the website. If your pig has a witty ‘bring home the bacon’ catchphrase or strapline, then get it in your Google Adwords copy (and yes you need to be bidding on ‘pig advert’ too – sadly they won’t always remember your brand, no matter how big your budget).

Then make sure your homepage and your bespoke landing pages feature our perky, pink friend to reassure your customer as you tempt them down the path to conversion.

The true test to you as a marketer is to get all your ducks in row (sorry more animal metaphors). Your customers have a multitude of ways into your website – are they all telling the same story?


(and full disclosure, I worked on this campaign)

You have a TV ad (or print, billboard, etc.) running offline.

Your audience may see it away from their computer, so you continue the theme on your mobile site:

Jobsite Mobile Homepage

You use the same wording from the TV creative in your PPC ads:

PPC ad

And finally you repeat the messaging / imagery on your website’s homepage: Homepage

The path is complete. Throughout each touchpoint you’ve been consistent with your message, your imagery and your brand, leaving no doubt in the mind of the potential customer.

So what do you think? Do you have any great – or poor – examples of scent in campaigns you’d like to share? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Gary Robinson is a UK digital marketer, who fell into this tech world by accident and decided to stay and play. That was 1999. He's still here. His current loves are conversion optimisation, mobile and tinkering with new technology. He also has a fondness for coffee.

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  • Alex Charraudeau

    Great piece here!

    • Gary Robinson

      Thanks Alex, glad you liked it. Is it something that you factor in your line of work?

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  • Neil Hopkins

    Enjoyed this, Gary, and thoroughly agree with everything that you’ve said.

    It’s just such a shame that pieces like this still need to be written. It’s common sense after all, isn’t it?

    Or perhaps UnCommon sense more like…

    • Gary Robinson

      Thanks for the comment Neil, glad you liked it and agree.

      Curious whether this comment is for this post or the NatWest one that links to this page? ( Wondered if you might have wandered over.

      Either way, same subject, and the principles are the same for any brand. It should be common sense but it doesn’t always work out that way – either due to lack of knowledge or because of internal issues at businesses (such as communication, joined up thinking between digital and traditional marketing functions and compliance rules).

      Sadly for the customer, they don’t have interest in that and just want a good, logical experience.

      • Neil Hopkins

        Hi Gary

        I read the NatWest piece, which led me here – but the comment was for this piece!

        Customers won’t notice a seamless experience, but, as you say, they will notice a jagged one…

        • Gary Robinson

          Thanks for clarifying – and for reading two posts!

          Couldn’t agree more on that final sentence.

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