How to Instantly Engage Your Online Audience

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Photograph of Popsicle Hotline sign.

The Magic Castle Hotel is the fourth best hotel in Los Angeles, according to TripAdvisor. Fourth out of 372. First on the list is the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills.

That’s a pretty great achievement. So much so, TripAdvisor awarded it a Certificate of Excellence for always receiving consistently great reviews. Nine times. Nine times! It averages 4.5 stars from over 3,000 travellers.

You’d expect, with these reviews, that the hotel bears a close resemblance to the Four Seasons. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. A converted, two-storey apartment complex from the 1950s, the Magic Castle is painted canary yellow and has a near-palm-sized swimming pool. From the photographs, it looks below average at best.

So how does it garner such sought-after reviews?

In their book, The Power of Moments, brothers Chip and Dan Heath pin it down to the hotel’s propensity for creating “defining moments”. Moments that, in their words, “jolt us and elevate us and change us”. Clearly then, the Magic Castle Hotel must produce some pretty darn good moments.

“What on earth are you talking about young man”, I hear you cry?

I’m talking about their Popsicle Hotline! Yes, their Popsicle Hotline.

Yellow Popsicle

Free popsicles, anyone? Photo by Lanju Fotografie on Unsplash

The Popsicle Hotline is a red telephone by the swimming pool. Pick it up and you’ll hear “Hello, Popsicle Hotline”. Order a popsicle in any flavour and moments later, a waiter will appear at your sun lounger carrying the popsicle on a silver tray, white gloves and everything. What’s more, it’s totally free.

It’s memorable moments such as these that have earned Magic Castle Hotel seriously good credit on TripAdvisor and other review forums alike.

So, what's the lesson here?

The lesson is, rather than strive to be perfect in all areas of your business or marketing, focus instead on smaller, defining moments. These moments may cost a little more but pay off big time. The Magic Castle Hotel have invested in a number of small moments, including free snacks 24 hours a day and a magician who entertains the children at breakfast. Seriously.

“Magic Castle isn’t worried about changing the awful yellow colour of the building or upgrading the bathrooms. Its managers are thinking about doing a couple of things during a stay that will really stand out in guests’ minds,” Chip Heath says. “I think that’s an advantage, because then you don’t have to excel at everything. You only have to excel at a few things that are going to be memorable. Those defining moments can become powerful signature moments.”

Yes, but how does this relate to my website?

Ah, I’m glad you asked. In a sea of templates and standards, stand out by commissioning your very own digital, popsicle hotline.

Need an example? Have a look at this website for copywriter Joe Coleman:

Screenshot of Joe Coleman's homepage.

A simple website but the perfect example of how to engage your online audience.

Rather than follow the same old, boring sitemap, Coleman has devised a devilishly clever slider. He gets across key facts about his experience and career in a humorous, memorable way. All through interaction. We’d definitely hire him.

It’s important here to note that you don’t have to resort to humour to make it memorable. And you don’t have to employ the use of heavily interactive elements. The moral of this story is be creative with how you engage your online audience.

We were approached by the team behind Ennio Marchetto to do just that with his website. The brief: take an ordinary-looking newspaper—a little bit bland and boring—and turn it into a treasure-trove of hidden surprises. Just as Ennio turns sheets of paper into hilarious characters.

We set to work, and, utilising clever animations, created something extraordinary out of something really quite ordinary. Have a look here:

Ennio Marchetto

Ennio's costumes are full of surprises, just like his website.

So next time you need to create something digital, take a moment to think outside the box. What’s your popsicle hotline?

Get in touch and let’s make something glorious together.

Nicholas Hart - Digital Project Manager