Deep Branding – on a washing machine

When you use certain combinations of buttons on your washing machine it plays a song, at least if your machine is made by Fisher & Paykel it does.

Fisher & Paykel is a New Zealand company, and that’s the New Zealand national anthem playing. (You might get a better idea of the tune when Hayley Westenra sings it)

Other companies have included a tune when the machine’s cycle is done but this an example of the company going a step beyond the company’s brand and the product’s function.  I think of these ‘surprises’ companies deliver as deep branding. Fisher & Paykel are obviously proud to be Kiwi.



It’s the page you get when there is no page. For the user it’s the frustrating error message when you’ve typed in the wrong URL, or clicked on a link to a page that has been removed from a site. For the website, or company providing the website it’s an opportunity.

Renny Gleeson has a funny take on the whole thing at TED.

I think “breaking a relationship” is a bit too far, but I agree that 404 pages are an opportunity.  Many companies have taken the opportunity to provide help to their customers and manage to have some fun with their 404 pages including;

  • Coca cola; offers some choices to help you, uses simple English, and manages to include the word “refreshing” which links to their brand.
  • Siemens; apologises, offers some help, and includes a fuzzy graphic as if you’ve gone to non-existing tv channel – points slightly to their brand as a technology player.
  • Suredev; admonishes visitors as if they’ve broken something, it’s an approach that not all companies could get away with, they also provide some links and a search bar.

I was really disappointed with the SouthWest Airlines 404 page, they manage to do so much that it cool it’s a shame they haven’t paid a little attention to their error page.

A good error page should

  • help the visitor get back on track, by giving them links or a search box.
  • provide a way to contact the webmaster
  • use plain language – avoid tech speak (so the technical message “404 file not found” shouldn’t be there)
  • connect to your brand – by design, by tone of voice, by the use of humour (where appropriate)

It’s inevitable that customers will occasionally land on the 404 page, the least website managers can do is make it helpful and clear, add a connection to your brand you’ve got a more positive experience for those customers who got a little lost on your site.

Deep Branding

Recently I spent some time looking at how robots.txt files are used. These are small text files that tell spiders and webcrawlers how to use a site. They’re used to point the crawler towards any site maps, or exclude certain parts of your site from being crawled, or exclude specific webcrawlers. Of course unscrupulous webcrawlers ignore these instructions and it’s not an effective way to “hide” information but it is useful in terms of Search Engine Optimisation.

Guess who.

One company put a little branding message into their robots.txt file. See if you can guess who it’s from. (If you’re really stuck the answer is in the alt text – so just mouse over).

Pretty much nobody reads this text, the only people who do are geeks, and 50% of the geeks I asked didn’t get the branding message. But 50% did.

This says something about the company, branding is so well done internally that the geeks writing the robots.txt file include a variant of the company’s tag line. It also says they are confident about their brand  can have some fun with it, whether or not it’s out there for public consumption.

I’m calling it deep branding.


image robot