We have a lot of things.
Our homes are filled with things we’ve made or acquired: bags, books, clothes, toys, furniture, jewelry, oh so many gadgets, photographs, cards, papers, and, of course, that matchstick holder that little Bobby made in fifth grade.
Our things are a form of self-expression. They are extensions of our self-identity. You can tell quite a bit about someone by looking through their things – seeing which they give away and which are most valuable to them.
Our things are such a powerful extension of our self-identity simply because we own them. Psychologists have found that, as babies, we develop the assumption that whoever has first possession of a thing is the rightful owner of the thing. The technical term for this would be the “finders keepers, losers weepers” theory of ownership.
I’ve found that this attachment to things holds true when it comes to the content on our corporate websites.
About a year ago, I spoke with a marketer who had some concerns about the content on the newly redesigned website for the company where he worked. When I asked him about the purpose behind the website, he said, “It’s a challenge, because so many people can put their content there. And so they do.”
This company’s slick website checks off all the requisite boxes of modern design (SEO friendly, mobile compatible, etc.). But it’s a confusing collection of tens of thousands of pages of features, benefits, mission statements, corporate bios, and “look how awesome we are” campaigns. In that way, it’s is a perfect reflection of the company’s approach to content. It’s a container full of self-extensions of all the things that all the company’s people have made.
Since that conversation, I’ve been struck by how many websites are merely containers of things.
They’re the refrigerator door loaded with every piece of content the children have created, with no plan (well, until the magnets fail) for ever taking anything down.
For example, one large, global brand I know has KPIs for their marketing managers based on how many pieces of content they produce. The content isn’t “real” (or countable) until it exists on the website. So, by hook or by crook, managers make sure that every piece of content they create (good or bad) gets on the site somehow. They call in favors, cajole or pressure their way onto the site. It’s their thing – so it must be the most important thing.
Think about looking at the corporate website differently. Over the last few years, research has shown that people consumers now valuing acquiring experiences over acquiring things.
Start to look at your website not as a container of things, but rather a set of experiences created to serve a purpose. Maybe then we’ll evolve to a place where the extension of our businesses is the sum of all the experiences we create.
It’s your story. Tell it well.