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Ah, March Madness. A time of year greatly anticipated by collegiate underdogs, die-hard fans, and those who have chosen their brackets based on their favorite mascot (but seriously, how adorable is Butler U’s Blue the Bulldog?).


Whichever category you fall into, you and the 40 million other Americans playing along probably have one thing in common: whether it was to research teams or download a bracket template, the first thing you did to start your March Madness journey was visit a website. So, in the spirit (…or maybe madness) of this long-awaited season, let’s take a look at which brands are scoring on the web front.

Game 1: Storytelling.

Everyone loves a good Cinderella story! Much like heartfelt stories of underdog teams exceeding expectations, brands should strive to establish the same emotional connection with their audience. Honesty and transparency are incredibly important when telling your brand story, so the design of your site needs to be equally rooted in the reality of your brand and its products.

Chipotle Mexican Grill does a really nice job of telling their story consistently throughout their site, but they really hit a 3-pointer on their Food With Integrity page. Despite the health issues some Chipotle restaurants have developed lately, the chain’s commitment to changing the way fast casual food is sourced and grown is apparent in the messaging on this page. Kudos for the sincerity (and great design), Chipotle!

Game 2: Mobile-first.

If your site isn’t formatted for mobile, you’re already losing before it’s time for tip-off. Research shows that 57 percent of mobile users will abandon your website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load and 30 percent will abandon a purchase transaction if the shopping cart isn’t optimized for mobile devices. If your consumers are anything like me, they’ll instantly navigate away from your non-mobile-friendly site because it’s most likely hard to read, hard to find what you’re looking for, or just plain dated, which gives the impression of a stale brand.


A new-ish brand that does a great job of keeping their site simple and totally mobile-friendly is Henry’s Hard Soda. It’s simple, clean, and provides a great mobile experience. Why? Because the site is responsive and everything you need to know about the product is right on one page. There’s no need to click through a seemingly endless navigation and wait for every page to load just to find out where I can get this glorious, nostalgic (and now adult-friendly) beverage.

Game 3: Simplicity.

Remember that acronym about kissing that your weird English teacher always rattled off in grade school? That was actually a pretty valuable lesson in advertising: keep it simple! It’s 2016 and the shot clock for stone age Internet has run out. Let’s tone down the rainbow colors and focus on what matters: showing off who you are as a brand.


Launched in 2012, Dollar Shave Club is known for their hilariously random TV spots with blunt, no B.S. messaging. Their website does a great job of cutting out clutter and all the stuff that guys probably don’t care about when they’re shaving (like vibrating-flashlight-backscratcher handles), and they display their products in a simple, clean, and easy-to-understand way. Bonus points for having a fantastic mobile design that uses subtle micro-interactions to seamlessly and beautifully take the user’s experience a step above the norm.

So remember, tell your story, do it in a mobile-friendly way, and keep it simple.

It’s all about creating a sense of trust in your brand and helping your customers find what they need quickly and easily. If you can do that, you’re as good as any number one seed. So now that you know the playbook, get out there and show the digital world what you’ve got!


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