Site maps and city subway systems

Gone are the days of massive corporate websites with site maps that look like most city subway systems.

Many of today’s largest brands are choosing not to further grow their web sites; instead they are jumping on the mini site bandwagon. Let me explain what a mini site or a micro site is for those of you who aren’t familiar with the term.

Explaining the mini site

Most companies have elaborate websites that brandish all kinds of information about products, services and accomplishments; the web site is a reflection of the brand itself.

However in today’s fast paced web culture companies want to reach a greater or more specific audience and that audience doesn’t necessarily want to go directly to the corporate website because they don’t want to dig through a pile of links and boring company information in order to find what they are looking for.

To remedy this issue companies are now creating mini sites or micro sites that are completely dedicated to a specific product, line of products or services that the company would like to market in a creative way.

Most of these sites are created in FLASH and have videos that the user can watch and interactive games that allow the user to play or create and a send to a friend feature for sharing specific content.

A mini site's life span

The life span of the mini site is short and its content is highly interactive, hilarious and very viral; spreading across the web in a matter of days after launch. Don’t let the word mini mislead you. Some of these sites are quite elaborate and very expensive to produce.

Most of us are old enough to remember the early days of the internet, the catchy domain names, breakthrough designs, new logos and original content; it became a place to find what television, radio and cable wouldn’t and couldn’t offer us.

Not having to adhere to any specific standards other than keeping focused on the brand, companies are now creating their own entertaining and unique content based on exactly how they want to talk to their target consumers and creating the content around the product or service itself.

Remembering TV commercials

I have personally always been a television commercial junkie. I remember when I was younger I would memorize every commercial I ever saw and repeat it to friends and family as a sort of mini play.

I even had a VHS game called Commercial Crazies that tested your knowledge of commercials and how they spoke to their audiences. It was great! Commercials were those cute tiny snippets of fun that gave us some of our most memorable characters.

A mini site is like a commercial, it is an encapsulated website based on a specific brand message.

One of the most amazing qualities that a mini site has over a television or radio ad is that people actually choose to go to it rather than it being some intrusive disturbance during a show or a movie.

Interactive agencies

It is no surprise to me that I have chosen to work at an interactive agency that produces these forward thinking and breakthrough advertisements.

Unlike normal ad agencies we have the freedom and the ability to create a life around the brand that supersedes print or even television. We create content and people love good content.

Today many networks are struggling with the fact that people are changing the way they view content and have the ability to tune out ads with devices like Tivo and services like satellite radio.

Over the past few years I have witnessed some of the most traditional companies turn to the web and the mini site as a foundation for launching a new product.

Mini sites for everyone

The mini site is not just for the online crowds and teenage kids who love goofy material but for mothers, grandmothers and plain folk who also enjoy and react positively to the content and entertainment value.

Information empowers us; with that information we are now able to make more calculated choices about the products and services we purchase. These sites serve as a hub of information for those products or services and they help the consumer identify with the product or service better.

Some great examples

Let’s take a look at some examples of mini sites that not only created a lot of brand recognition for the products and services that they were built for but also how specifically targeted and entertaining they are to engage in.

These sites were chosen because they have endearing characters, rich content and specific target audiences.

The first example I would like to cite is an ad for Milwaukee Best Light. Men anywhere can relate to this site since it talks directly to the part of the brain that makes us men all part of the same club…

Virgin came up with a hilarious site called Dog Judo in order to amuse people into buying a new camera phone. This is the type of site that has content that doesn’t really relate to the product other than it appeals to the target audience Virgin seeks to capture.

Some brands are even creating their own channels of content where a user can literally spend hours watching funny and original branded content like VW did in this site for its new Passat

The British version of 411 is Number 118 118 the leading phone based information directory provider in the UK, they also happen to be crazy about mini sites. Check out this site they created featuring their own characters called the 118 118 Twins.

Sprint created this simple yet addictive mini site to advertise their new Power Vision Service. This is the type of interactive multimedia that makes a mini site so powerful you can literally interact with the characters on the site itself.

Then there is one of my personal favorites developed for none other than cable giant Comcast, what better way to advertise high speed internet than a mini site that takes advantage of high speed internet? Couple that with Mr. T and you have got a mighty mini site that pities no fool, Comcastic.

Finally Phillips broke their clean cut image with this funny mini site for a new product called the Body Groom, the mini site is designed in the classic Phillips clean white layout but wait until you get a load of what kind of filth comes out of the main characters mouth, check it out: shaveeverywhere.com.

Small is big

Creating a mini site is no small task. The amount of dedication and talent involved in creating a site like those examples I listed above are tremendous. I work at a very unique interactive agency called Firstborn Multimedia where we excel at creating mini sites.

We work tirelessly with our clients to help them come up with original content that will drive traffic to the mini site and keep them coming back for the duration of the site. We also create ways for users to tell as many people about it as possible.

We employ creative designers, top notch programmers, and savvy producers and technologists that all work together to bring a mini site to life.

A typical mini site is usually jam packed with audio, video, images, text, web cams, databases, administration tools and original animations, new ideas and concepts are being developed as I write this piece.

Firstborn has been fortunate enough to work with the world's leading ad agencies (Crispin Porter, Goodby, Saatchi & Saatchi, etc.) creating of some of the most unique mini sites on the web today.

Bringing concepts to life

Often times we are hired to bring concepts to life from a flash experience standpoint, while at other times we collaborated with the agencies on the concept, design and technical aspects of the marketing piece.

The Adobe Acrobat 7.0 Experience teaches users about various aspects the software, and gets a good chuckle at the same time.

With GiftMixer 3000 and Season of Surprises, users create their own Border's Books shopping list for their loved ones by way of an irreverent Hal 9000-esque computer helper or via an interactive storytelling book.

For our own clients, Target and Victoria's Secret, we were able to create engaging mini sites that showcased their latest product offerings in a unique and clever way, thereby giving the user a more personal connection with the brand.

Never be bored again

So the next time you’re bored with what is on TV or you’re sick of listening to Howard Stern re-runs on satellite radio try logging into some of the content rich mini sites out there. You will find them amusing, interactive and even addictive.

There are all kinds of mini sites out there and many get updated and feature new content daily. It is also a great way to study how the power of an interesting idea can drive an entire experience and attach itself to an audience in an intimate way.

Don’t be fooled by the name, mini sites are mighty powerful.

About the Author, Craig Elimeliah
(former) Producer, Firstborn

Craig Elimeliah (former) producer at Firstborn Multimedia. He is a native New Yorker who started his design career in Jerusalem. Craig has a background in design, technology, project management, entrepreneurship and sales.

When Craig is not producing projects for Firstborn he spends his time with his kids, writing, painting and cooking.

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