Digital Face Lift #2- Merriam-Webster

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The Patient: Merriam”“Webster, America’s go-to guy for dictionaries and thesauruses since 1828.

The Ailment: Merriam Webster suffers from a jumbled online presence and a scattered social media strategy that undercuts their fantastic line of products.

Prognosis: Hopeful. With a strict streamlining of the website, an aggressive public relations plan, and clear vision for social media, Merriam-Webster should remain the country’s premiere reference guru for another century or two.

Recommended Treatment: The worn out red Webster’s dictionary has long lived on the shelves of students. Everybody knows the brand and it’s omnipresence is so ingrained that it would be safe to assume that the brand is fine and not going anywhere anytime soon, right? Wrong. If the recent  shake ups at long standing publishers like  Rand McNally has taught us anything is that nobody safe from quietly being bulldozed by the digital world. Luckily, Rand McNally still has an amazing line of products and even some cool online features that will help them stay relevant to a generation whose idea of a dictionary is spell check.

First on the agenda is cleaning up the website. There are tons of great features like the word of the day, crossword puzzles, the stunningly cool visual dictionary and search feature that let’s users look up words. The problem is that the opening page is so jammed packed with information  and overloaded with ads that it creates a bit of web A.D.D.  The assumption is that most visitors would be there to look up words so having the search more bold and above the rest of the copy would help. Less is more. Dictionaries are classic, elegant and all business resources should remain as such. A more classic and minimal look would honor Merriam-Webster’s esteemed past while reaffirming the brand as the only one of its kind. The amazing extra features could be moved off to the side and presented in the same stylish manner.

Next up, is the sagging state of the company’s public relations. The most recent headline they’ve garnished was the silly story about dictionaries being banned in some suburban school. And that is too bad because there are plenty of cool things going on Merriam-Webster that could garner publicity. The Visual Dictionary, for example, has been praised and even nominated for awards but you’d never know it. The awesome product takes looking up a word into the next century with cool illustrations and even audio cues for word freaks of all ages. This and the other new products should be pushed to tech outlets, educational publications, and parenting magazines. Also, the Webster’s name and logo could become synonymous with looking up words by creating smart phone apps and down-loadable dictionary software.

Lastly, there’s the tiny social media problem to clear up. Currently, the company has their “word of the day” feature on Twitter which I love , follow, and I am currently waiting for the right opportunity to use “effulgence” in a sentence. But that is about all they have as  far as social media goes. A separate Twitter page could be devoted to new products  that could further the conversation with followers.  A Facebook page that also featured word of the day, links to the visual dictionary, videos, and contests is  another easy way to say to consumers ,especially students who love facebook, “hey we’re here!”

Conclusion: Merriam-Websters, like the old hardware store in your neighborhood, is a reliably helpful company that users can still depend on. With a sleek, simplified look, a tough public relations plan, and an organized social media marketing plan, word lovers could once again bask in Merriam-Webster’s effulgence.

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