Berkshire-Hathaway’s Brilliant Website

November 2, 2012

This week I was looking for design inspiration for websites dealing with clients in the financial sector. After looking over dozens of examples of equity fund, online trading and real estate investment group sites, I encountered some good wireframe and design ideas that fit well with the model of my client.

Wanting to be thorough, I decided to finish the exercise with an overview of the top ten investment groups in America. I immediately struck pay dirt with this approach, visiting the website in the #1 position, Berkshire Hathaway Inc. – the largest investment group in the U.S. View this screenshot of their website with reverence and awe, for it stands alone as a monument to clean design and precision-targeted user experience.

After viewing the graphic of their home page or visiting their site, you may think I’m being sarcastic. But I swear I’m not. OK maybe a little, but not much. Because despite the fact that I make my living producing and designing websites and other collateral for online marketing, after pondering this site for some time I realized that I could not improve upon this website. Yes, I could make it look prettier. I could add functionality. I could re-platform it with a CMS. I could go to Getty Images and purchase stock photo assets featuring 20-something women in business suits standing in 30th floor office suites talking on their smartphones, and put those images into jQuery slideshows on the home page.

I could do all of the above and still not increase the functionality of their website of Berkshire Hathaway Incorporated one tiny bit, or add one dollar of value to their investment portfolio.

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Filed under: Branding, Marketing, Online Marketing, User Experience, User Interface, Web Content by SF

Solid Gold Sustainability: Agrarian from Williams-Sonoma

May 10, 2012

The PR about Williams-Sonoma‘s new Agrarian collection is all around us this week. Agrarian is a line of “DIY” merchandise targeted to the upscale sustainable farmer.

If you know anything about Williams-Sonoma, you already have surmised that this merchandise is targeted to a special breed of farmer. The kind of farmer who likes their planting equipment coppered, monogrammed, patinated and distressed. Who likes chicken coops priced well into 4 figures, and for them to be of an iconic, prefabricated appearance to trumpet the designer label origins. And for farmers desiring White Glove delivery, where the term “do-it-yourself” temporarily takes on another meaning and becomes a simple command to the delivery driver who is expected to assemble it on-site with the gentleman farmer looking over his shoulder.

You could poke fun at this concept all day long, as many pundits are doing. Which is what intrigues me about Agrarian: It’s too easy to laugh at. But the fact is, when a top brand pulls something like this, they’ve usually got some business fundamentals behind it.

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Filed under: Blog, Branding, Identity Design, Marketing, Retail, Social Media by SF

MINI USA Thanks Me For Being a Friend

April 5, 2012

Those wacky marketers at MINI USA. Always up to something.

As a MINI owner on the BMW/MINI house distribution list, I recently received a message from them thanking me for being such a wonderful customer and enticing me to follow a link where I could further bulk up their customer data about me for more accurate targeting in the future receive their humble gratitude.

I clicked through. I had to look. Wouldn’t you? And like me, aren’t you dying to know how they personally thanked me for being a MINI-ite?

MINI USA Personal Email Campaign

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Filed under: Advertising, Blog, Branding, Direct Marketing, Email, Facebook, Marketing, Online Marketing, Social Media by SF

Mini vs. Porsche – Mini USA’s Race Challenge

June 14, 2010

As a satisfied, opted-in owner of a 2009 Clubman, I’m a recipient of all sophisticated components that emanate from Mini USA‘s online marketing machine.

So it was through an email blast that I learned about their latest wacky stunt, the Mini-vs-Porsche challenge. Yes, Mini USA has thrown down the gauntlet and challenged Porsche to a race, and all Mini enthusiasts are summoned to cheer Team Mini to victory. If there was any doubt to the authenticity of this event, the irresistable tag line “THIS IS NOT A JOKE” put them to rest.

MINI USA vs Porsche email message

The punch line of course is that there is seemingly no way for a 170hp Mini to beat a 380hp Porsche in head-to-head competition. But then it’s anyone’s guess as to how this will play out as the details of the contest have yet to be revealed. Will it be on a test track? Through the hills of the Italian Riviera? Quarter mile? Paris-Dakar?

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Filed under: Blog, Branding, Email, Facebook, Marketing, Online Marketing, Social Media, Twitter, YouTube by SF

Wheaties Fuel: Branding of Champions

April 1, 2010

In Safeway this week I was engaged in one of my more depressing shopping tasks: Looking for an edible breakfast cereal. It’s difficult. To my taste, most cereals are so bland and overprocessed that I can’t ever finish a whole box.

But I always need a day-starter of some kind. So there I was again — in Safeway, dully surveying the same aisle where I have been burned so many times before. Suddenly my eye was drawn to a bizarre apparition: an all-black box adorned with the glowering face of NBA star Kevin Garnett, illuminated with police lineup lighting effects and positioned over the logo of one of America’s oldest breakfast food brands: Wheaties.

Wheaties Fuel

A box of Wheaties Fuel was before me, standing out among the vast palette of beige, white and primary-colored boxes in the breakfast aisle like Snoop Dogg on the Martha Stewart show. I stood there an blinked for a few seconds trying to fathom the concept. This cereal is supposed to be wholesome, American, jock-y and very, very orange. And now: “Wheaties –Breakfast of Gangstas”? Whoa. My hand reached for the box like the root of a plant seeking water.

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Filed under: Advertising, Blog, Branding, Facebook, Identity Design, Marketing, Naming, Social Media, Twitter, YouTube by SF