The 50 top UK FMCG brand websites

MW has teamed up with BrandNet to launch the first evaluation of brand websites. The first impressions are disappointing. Instead of experimentation with interactivity, many brands are making do with lacklustre sites, which show little thought

On the assumption that packaged goods marketers have had several years to build websites for their brands, digital consultancy has launched an independent evaluation service to mark successes and failures and advise companies how to improve their online presence.

Surprisingly, some big names are missing from the Web. Procter & Gamble’s Fairy Liquid brand has no website, despite its long-running attempts to give emotional value to the product with the “Hands that do dishes” TV ads.

Other top 75 brands without a website include Nestl Rowntree’s Polo Mints, Mars’ Galaxy, Unilever’s Wall’s Ice Cream and United Biscuits’ McVitie’s Digestives.

Some companies fail even to have a corporate website. One notable example is Weetabix, ironically absent considering its latest offline ad campaign features hapless people who don’t buy the cereal, complete with the strapline “Withoutabix”.

Brand managers have for too long been satisfied with throwing information onto a website without putting thought into how content affects consumers’ brand perceptions.

The key issue for marketers drawing up a Web strategy is whether Internet presence will build or destroy the brand. In short, is there any point having a website?

A major advantage of having an online presence is that websites help brand owners in the power struggle with retailers.

Brands have had their power eroded by retailers over the past two decades and building a website is an important way to redress the balance. It can enhance what consumers understand and want to know about a brand.

Brand owners are unable to monitor in-store transactions to find out who is buying their brand, as retailers are at the sharp end of the relationship with consumers. But the Net provides an opportunity for companies to get closer to the consumer and find out who is buying a brand, by observing what people look for online.

Brand managers can also exploit the opportunity to ask questions, because people are more inclined to say what they think about brands while online. Focus groups for offline ad campaigns can create a false environment and people can feel too embarrassed to give their honest opinion face-to-face.

Perhaps the strongest argument for having a website, even during these early days of e-commerce, is to build an online relationship with consumers, so manufacturers can eventually sell directly to them.

BrandNet planning director Ed Hebblethwaite says: “Some brands, such as Saxa salt or Bryant & May matches don’t have a close, emotional relationship with individuals. It would probably be wrong for them to have a Web presence.

“But brands such as McDougalls flour or Homepride sauces can involve people, for example those who want to make shortcrust pastry.

“You can list brand values online when it would be impossible on television, unless you use an expensive, five-minute commercial.”

According to research by Forrester and a report commissioned by P&G, 48 per cent of Internet users search the Web for product and brand information.

The message to brand owners is that if they tailor their online message now by providing an interesting, informative and interactive experience for consumers keen to find out more about the brand, they will eventually be rewarded. If people are looking for brands such as Coca-Cola and Guinness online, brand managers should be helping them find the site and bring the brand proposition to life.

Major packaged goods companies are forming an online alliance at, a business-to-business e-commerce arena where they can share supply chain management strategies. Members already include Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Unilever, P&G, Mars and Cadbury, and Anheuser-Busch and Heineken – rivals which would normally keep each other at arm’s length.

Consumers might not want to go to sites to buy individual brands, but there could realistically be a “Brands R Us” site in the near future. Unless brand managers think ahead and hook consumers with brilliant content, they could miss the boat.

BrandNet has uncovered some examples of bad practice from top brands. Stella Artois, for example, didn’t appear in the top five search engines, and could only be found at an obscure address. The site is more about Stella’s film sponsorship than the core brand values and it fails to give any idea of the brand’s history.

PG Tips’ site is listed at an even more incomprehensible address, which Hebblethwaite claims erodes the brand equity of the PG Tips chimps.

Since BrandNet’s first survey, in April, the consultancy has retested sites. Although some fared worse after introducing poor ideas in an attempt to drive traffic to the site, some were marked up for improving areas such as location and interactivity.

Brand managers are beginning to realise that it is not enough simply to have a website. Like advertising campaigns, they will need to refresh and update the content and add interactive features to grab consumers’ attention.

Hebblethwaite warns: “People have become blind to what they should do, because it’s the Net. If they wouldn’t consider doing something on television, they shouldn’t do it on the Net.”

The good news is that the number of top grocery brands without a Web presence is falling. But there are still an alarming number of mega-brands which continue to shun the Net. This is particularly shocking when that brand is also the corporate name – Weetabix, for example.

How can a company which spends so much on TV brandbuilding not spend any on the Web? It has done a great job over the years at sustaining its brands and extending them, but it seems that the Weetabix corporate culture doesn’t extend to true consumer interactivity.

Weetabix is joined in the Web sin-bin by the following brands: Anchor, Bold, Fairy Liquid, McVitie’s Digestives, Polo Mints, Ariel, Branston Pickle, Galaxy, Robertson’s Golden Shred, Bell’s Whisky, Comfort, Gordon’s Gin, Mr Kipling, Bird’s Custard, Daz, HP Sauce, Pears Soap and Wall’s Ice Cream.

That’s quite a roll-call. In recent ads Gordon’s Gin has been trying to create a mystique and a story around the brand – so why not do the obvious thing and build that story online? And a spokesman for Nestl’s Polo says the brand prefers to spend its marketing budget on sampling activity. But surely Nestl can afford to create a website as well? Hasn’t it heard of viral marketing?

Phil Tarver, creative director of Bates Interactive, says this lack of online presence is a false economy. “The Net offers so much more than the quick hit of other media. The Web is a chance to have a real conversation with consumers.”

Brand websites currently hovering outside the top 50 include PG Tips, Flora, Robinsons, Bovril, Ovaltine and Mars Bar.

Pos Brand WebSite Score Comment 1 = Famous Grouse 75.3 Good design and content. Delivers brand authority. E-commerce information 1 = Persil 75.3 Plenty of content on products; brand authority. Voucher incentive scheme 3 Guinness 73.6 Easy to find, with good brand interaction and data capture; needs search facility 4 Coca-Cola 70.8 Well-branded, fun and UK-specific. Excellent tie-in with QXL but registration unstable 5 Nescaf 70.5 Up-to-date branding; hands-on product incentives. Lacks reasons to return 6 Tango 69.4 Simple navigation; well-branded; builds on current advertising. No customer help 7 Ribena 65.9 Good data capture and interaction; outside links. Content not immediately obvious 8 Andrex 61.4 Brings brand icon to life; strong on consumer interaction. Hard to find and lacks map 9 Pampers 60.6 Easy to find, with plenty of public service info. Not UK-specific; confusing navigation 10 Colgate 59 Up-to-date branding, good data capture and product incentives. Difficult to find 11 Heineken 58.9 Scored well on navigation and proposition of world travel 12 Quaker Oats 57.5 US proposition; updated regularly; falls down on content and interactivity 13 Kit Kat 56.8 New entry to league; Irish site. Well-branded but generally average 14 Johnson & Johnson 55.5 Pro-active monthly communication. Authoritative, with good use of imagery 15 Lucozade 54.6 Easy to find but long download times for games and lacks instructions 16 Kellogg 54.3 Up to date, lots of games and a tie-in with the Olympics. Little brand history 17 Heinz 53.2 Links to Heinz Direct and good nutritional information; lacks brand personality 18 Walkers 52.9 Falls down on content – no links to books for schools vouchers or Gary Lineker 19 Felix Cat Food 52.6 Hard to find but good use of medium brings brand to life. Light on product info 20 Tampax 52.3 Interactive, good links to Teen site Branding could be improved 21 Durex 51.7 Good balance of info and humour, but poor navigation 22 Horlicks 51.1 Navigation tricky – user feels disoriented 23 Kleenex Toilet Tissue 50.7 Good history, well branded but not UK-specific. No extension of brand proposition 24 Gillette 50.5 Corporate orientation with good links to brand websites 25 Huggies 49.8 Baby and Mum club with free products, but lacks authority and interactive search 26 Hovis 48.6 Lacks user incentives – non-effective use of interactive media 27 Always 48.4 Mother and daughter sections with links to other sites. US-orientated 28 Danish Bacon 47.9 Doesn’t really improve brand relationship, lacks incentives to bookmark/return 29 Tetley Tea 47.2 Vastly improved since previous evaluation. More consumer-focused 30 Birds Eye Fish Fingers www.birds 47 Lots of recipes and good use of data capture. Special offers are US orientated 31 Pringles 46.7 Sells lunchbox-sized holders online but fails to improve brand relationship 32 Whiskas 46.2 Reliable well branded site; US orientated. Lacks interaction and interest 33 OXO 45.7 Well-branded and historical site. Lacking in interactivity and brand authority 34 Budweiser 45 Not much information but good links to non-competitors’ sites. Free e-mail 35 Mller Yoghurt 44.9 Well branded but no nutritional information 36 Dairy Milk 44.5 Updated monthly. Links to other Cadbury sites. Downloadable screen savers 37 Smirnoff 44.3 Whole site is about cocktails. Planet Smirnoff doesn’t feel or look like brand 38 Lurpak 43.3 Reliable site with brand history and authority. Navigation simple and effective 39 Pepsi 42.6 One of the biggest fallers. New Flash front-end takes too long to load 40 Marmite 41.2 Holding page – voting for future site. Well branded but lacks content 41 Tate & Lyle 39.9 Easy to find but looks flat and lacks interaction. No reason to revisit 42 Cussons Imperial Leather 37.9 Well branded and reliable site, but difficult to find 43 Carling 36.1 No brand story; focus on football. Good editorial but lacking football imagery 44 Spam 35.6 Competent; not highly interactive, and doesn’t bring brand to life 45 McCain Frozen Foods 35.4 Doesn’t provide reason to revisit and has not exploited use of media 46 Stella Artois 31.9 Film site. Very difficult to find. No brand depth, tennis or feeling of prestige 47 Pedigree 30.7 Goes straight to Waltham pet care site. Lacks Pedigree branding 48 Bisto 29.5 Product and nutritional information, not easy to find or very effective 49 Cadbury Roses 25.7 Not ranked in search engines. Pretty uninspiring site that didn’t grow on us! 50 Dettol 24.4 Reliable site but fails to deliver brand authority or improve brand relationship

Top ten websites



iSETs: 75.3%


13.3domain location

13.0site navigation


18.0brand proposition


pros: Effective use of media, good design, and content. Delivers brand authority, history appeal and manufacturing information.

cons: No Web address on pack or at POS. Site content not immediately obvious but engaging once inside.

=No. 1


iSETs: 75.3%


16.7domain location

15.3site navigation


13.3brand proposition


pros: Good use of media, plenty of content about cleaning products, stain removal, etc. Good brand authority, voucher incentives.

cons: No use of ‘keywords’ on main UK search engines. Lacks links to other Unilever products, new services available in London.



iSETs: 73.6%


20.0domain location

13.3site navigation


12.7brand proposition


pros: Easy to find, excellent search engine results through keywords. Lots of data capture facilities and interaction with the brand.

cons: Lacks links to other sites. Colour palette changes. Needs clearer search facilities.



iSETs: 70.8%


15.4domain location

13.3site navigation


15.3brand proposition


pros: Good links to entertaining stuff. Initiative tie-up with QXL for ring-pull auction is one of the best brand ideas to date. Well branded, fun and UK specific.

cons: Ring-pull auction not stable. Euro 2000 out of date when the site was launched. Lacks video, sound and slow at times.



iSETs: 70.5%


16.9domain location

15.5site navigation


14.7brand proposition


pros: Up-to-date branding. Good opportunities for data capture. Hands-on product incentives. Good content and headings.

cons: Lack of effective reasons to revisit.



iSETs: 69.4%


14.3domain location

12.2site navigation


17.3brand proposition


pros: Simple navigation, well branded. Uses media to build or extend brand advertising

cons: No customer help, service information and limit data capture. Site content is not immediately obvious.



iSETs: 65.9%


13.3domain location

12.2site navigation


15.3brand proposition


pros: Good data capture and interaction. Links to non-competitive sites and brands. Good use of media.

cons: Site content not immediately obvious with limited customer services information.



iSETs = 61.4%


10.7domain location

12.2site navigation


14.0brand proposition


pros: Well-branded site. Good consumer interaction. Brings the brand icon to life. Good links to other sites

cons: Poor domain name presence. Hard to find on search engines. Lacks site map and search facility.



iSETs: 60.6%


9.2domain location

16.5site navigation


11.3brand proposition


pros: Easy to find, lots of public services information. Carries brand authority through active communication.

cons: Lacks UK specific presence. Navigation is confused. Lack of European customer services information.



iSETs: 59.0%


10.0domain location

14.4site navigation


13.3brand proposition


pros: Up-to-date branding. Good data capture. Hands-on product incentives. Good content and headings, excellent site map. Consumer and trade focused

cons: Lack of POS presence, difficult to find, not UK specific.


Digital consultancy has developed the Internet Strategy Evaluation Tool (iSET), which scores websites on five categories:

Location: Does the site have a logical address, which is visible on-pack and in ads? Is it known by top search engines and the brand customer careline? If you’re interested in Guinness or Coca-Cola, can you find the brand website?

Navigation: Can you navigate the site without it crashing or being frustratingly slow?

Content: Is it consistent with the brand’s offline, above-the-line marketing message?

Brand proposition: Are the colours and typefaces the same as on the brand packaging?

Effectiveness: Are there good enough reasons to visit the site? Is it an interactive medium, not just a place to showcase the latest ad campaign?

BrandNet tests websites for the top 75 FMCG brands, chosen by amalgamating figures from The Grocer’s Millennium Brands survey and AC Nielsen’s “The UK’s Top 50 Brands 1998-1999” study.

This is the third survey – the previous two were published in April and July – and sites are revisited and re-evaluated on a regular basis.


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