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Unbounce Markets the Old-Fashioned Way: By Sponsoring Fights

“Pagefights: Episode One. What has been refreshing about the case of Unbounce has been their sheer willingness to place themselves in the trenches with their clients, the very people who look to them as experts.
Unbounce, the Vancouver-based landing page specialists, has spent the last couple years doing one thing extremely well, and has expanded both reputation-wise and territorially as a result.

The company has just opened an office in Montreal, partly to have a crew awake in the Eastern time zone before dawn cracks on the west coast. Not to mention that Real Ventures, one of Unbounce’s primary investors, is headquartered in Montreal.

To anyone watching the rise of Unbounce the last couple years, it’s clear that it has exemplified the term “start-up” more effectively than a lot of other small but ambitious players, simply because of the nearly gonzo, spit-n’-polish approach to marketing the company has taken.

For a while, it seemed as though the company consisted of nothing other than Oli Gardner’s blog posts, completely focused on offering advice on what goes into making a great landing page. Oli’s work was so affably single-minded that it slowly solidified into a body of work that positioned him as the only expert who would come up when a person googled “landing page”.

It’s all in the service of marketing. So much marketing is about serving up an illusion of perfection, or providing an ineffably assured experience. It’s refreshing to see a company coming at it more through perseverance than illusion.

For example, a couple weeks ago Burberry staged an event in Shanghai that involved a troupe of model/dancers wearing raincoats and spinning umbrellas in front of an idealized projection of London, while English pops stars like Paloma Faith and Ed Harcourt performed songs specially commissioned for the event and that you cannot buy as singles. That’s the kind of marketing event that a gazillion dollars and the best art direction money can buy will get you.

By contrast, this past Friday Unbounce staged Episode 1 of “Page Fights”, a decidedly lowbrow “American Idol” type competition in which Oli Gardner and Peep Laja judge a variety of landing pages, admirably moderated by Georgiana Laudi. With lines like, “What am I looking at?” and “This is a home page, not a landing page,” followed by, “This guy is just Danny from Florida. He’s not a doctor,” the whole event comes off as the antithesis of the slickly opaque ambitions of a Burberry spectacle, which might ultimately generate less value for the Internet at large in the long run.

When a resort gets slapped off of “Page Fights” with the line, “Experience five-star luxury? It looks like you’ve got one-star design,” you actually feel something. No amount of Burberry money, it would seem, can buy a line like that.

There is something to be said for production values, though. And while a Google+ hangout might work for online meetings (they are called “hangouts” for a reason), they are quite difficult to actually sit and watch like you would with the expectation of watching a show.

On the other hand, a viewer who might not know what a landing page is will at least come away enlightened after an episode of “Page Fights”. Marketing is nothing if not aspirational. If you’re the type of person who’s bothered by the fact that you thought that a landing page was just a page that you happened to land on, you’ll feel better after watching “Page Fights”.

Landing pages and conversion optimization are like the crack-cocaine of the Internet. They exist for a single, remorseless purpose, and bad design combined with lousy copy is the surest way to see a potential visitor bounce away from your site.

This is how Unbounce rolls, gleefully flouting the status quo and going straight for the jugular. What has been refreshing about the case of Unbounce has been their sheer willingness to place themselves in the trenches with their clients, the very people who look to them as experts.

In September, Unbounce will be staging the aptly titled “Call to Action” conference in Vancouver, providing a day of keynote speakers, panel discussions and groups focusing on “landing page campaigns, conversion optimization, design and a/b testing.”

In the meantime, prepare yourself for Episode 2 of “Page Fights”.

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  1. Love this post Terry, thanks so much for the shoutouts. Page Fights has been a pretty fun experiment so far, so it’s great to see it made an impression!

  2. Hear hear! It’s always a bit nerve-racking when we jump into new mediums like this, but we’re hoping to improve as we learn by doing 🙂

    Thank you Terry for this thoughtful post.

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