Friday, April 3, 2009

Movers and shakers: The literal kind

You don’t need to speak Dutch to understand the beauty behind the online viral marketing campaign from Amsterdam-based department store chain HEMA. I first wrote about its Web initiative over a year ago, and I'm still marveled by it. Click here and then wait a few seconds for the animation to begin.

The retailer, known for its affordable and high-quality generic housewares and goods, had expanded its brick-and-mortar presence throughout the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany for several decades, but it didn’t offer an e-commerce channel until two years ago. So what better way to let consumers know of its new site than creating a welcome page that is one of the most uniquely engaging and innovative Web introductions the online retail world has seen in a while: an animated site that brings its products to life.

When shoppers visit -- a welcome site that introduces consumers to -- several products for sale appear on screen, such as cups, an outfit for a baby and packaging tape. But after the mouse is left on the page for several seconds, the cups tip over and roll about the page. A domino sequence then occurs and the page scrolls to follow the moving products.

At the end of "show" -- that’s what it feels like -- a question box appears and asks if you want to send the page to a friend, similar to that of an e-card. And just like that, an online phenomenon ignited. In the first few weeks of the viral’s debut in October 2007, the site attracted more than several hundred thousand page views. People sent it to inboxes all over the globe, introducing not only the site but the brand to shoppers worldwide.

Many companies use viral campaigns as an inexpensive and creative attempt to lure attention to sites. But what makes HEMA’s approach stand apart from others that have taken similar steps in the past is that the style mirrors the very essence of what the company represents. The company calls it “special simplicity.” Read more about its strategy here.

I'm definitely ready to see a new and equally innovative campaign from HEMA. The bar has already been set -- and it’s certainly pretty high.

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