Designing a Storytelling Website for Nortek Data Center Cooling
This time last year, I did not know much about heating, ventilation and cooling.
Despite my–and my wheezing bulldog’s–love for strong A/C, I couldn’t have told you what brand of air conditioner I have, or how long I’ve had it. Or if I’m supposed to do anything with it?
But things changed last summer, when we got a call from Nortek.
Welcome to the World of HVAC
Nortek is a premier manufacturer of all things HVAC.
By “all things HVAC,” I mean Nortek units power not only some of the biggest hospitals, stadiums and airports in the world, but they’re also heating and cooling little South City bungalows just like mine.
Although Nortek designs and builds a wide range of solutions for every kind of building, the data cooling division’s latest innovations, designed specifically around the needs of the world’s busiest data centers, were the ones generating the most buzz.
Behind the Coolest Technology…is Cooling Technology
Technology companies rely on data centers to keep their products and applications running. And as Mike Spakowski likes to say, “This internet thing is catching on”–so those data centers, filled with the servers and routers that make technology possible, get really hot. (How hot? Have you ever burned your lap with your laptop? Think that times… a lot).
Data centers need reliable cooling systems to keep everything running smoothly. That’s where Nortek Data Center Cooling comes in.
The average data center cooling system uses a lot of energy and a lot of water. Nortek’s industry-disrupting solutions don’t. They help technology companies save more resources and operate more sustainably than ever before.
But Nortek Data Center Cooling’s online presence—a single landing page on another Nortek website—was minimal. And it definitely didn’t share the brand’s mission or product impact.
They needed a website design agency to help show—and tell—that story in a starter site that could be shared with prospective leads.
We wanted to give the site a strong visual and tonal foundation that Nortek’s internal marketing team could build upon as their product lines grow.
What’s a Why?
If you’re an avid reader of this blog, or any branding blog, you’ve heard this quote from Simon Sinek, an author, inspirational speaker and TED Talk sensation.
Sinek explains that what you do and how you do it don’t mean anything to audiences without first telling them why you do it.
This is the idea that we keep top of mind as we begin crafting every brand’s messaging foundation—whether it’s for a frozen custard shop, a logistics company or a data center cooling system manufacturer.
The why is the key to connecting with potential customers.
In this case, those potential customers just happen to be the biggest names in technology.
Making it Matter
The story explaining Nortek’s “why” had to resonate with and inspire their audience. It had to be simple and straightforward. It had to sum up all of the amazing things Nortek Data Center Cooling stands for, while highlighting the things that make them different.
It had to sound like this:
When you’re building the next big thing, you need a partner who can keep up.
At Nortek, we empower our customers to do things that have never been done before.
We build data center cooling solutions that eliminate downtime, maximize potential and minimize footprints.
Our record-breaking systems pave a sustainable, efficient path to innovation – because when we challenge our industry standard, our customers change the world.
Nortek’s “why” isn’t just moving the data center cooling industry forward—it’s shaking it up. And empowering their customers to do the same. We built a story to capture that mentality and establish a strong tone of voice.
What we needed next were bold visuals to match.
Breaking the Rules
Working within the framework of an existing brand identity can be a mixed bag. Sometimes it’s easier, because we don’t need to reinvent the wheel or create a visual identity from scratch. Other times it’s more challenging, like when the color palette is limited and graphics are minimal. In those cases, it can be difficult to stretch the existing brand without breaking the rules.
That is, if you worry about breaking the rules. Around here, we don’t.
Nortek Data Center Cooling’s existing brand mark was a big N. It’s bold, it’s slanted, it’s bright red—and it had only been used in lockups with the Nortek name and business division.
Drawing inspiration from the new brand story, we decided to do something that had never been done before, too. We pulled that N out of the logo and put it right in the middle of the homepage.
Paired with the existing neutral color palette, the bright N introduced strong color, and its forward-leaning slant complemented the forward-focused copy and headlines. It also gave Nortek a completely ownable graphic element that could be used across marketing materials and branded pieces.
So we kept using it, sometimes in the foreground, sometimes more subtly in the background. It created visual interest and texture throughout the site.
The bold red became a symbol of movement. We used it to highlight buttons and powerful words.
Through voice and visuals, we’d started to shape a new, yet familiar look and feel for Nortek Data Center Cooling.
Setting the Stage
As we began to create the core pages of the site—a homepage with room to grow and pages that told the brand story, highlighted services, captured leads and showcased news and insights—we wondered if we’d spent too much time telling the story, and not enough time talking about the actual products.
While the plan was always to add the product pages after our initial site build, our content gave a high-level view of the brand and its benefits but didn’t dive deep into specifics.
We’d turned a product-focused landing page into a story-focused website.
Was it right?
“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”
We had built a site of why.
We gave the brand a look and feel that matched its mission and impact. We’d referenced products where they made sense throughout the site, but made the story the star.
Was it right?
Yes. We solved the most important piece of the puzzle. With a solid visual and messaging foundation in place, we’d accomplished what Nortek Data Center Cooling was looking for—a standalone site that brought the brand to life, with a foundation and room to grow and evolve.
Now, we just had to build it.
As we entered the development phase, the modern look and feel of our site designs became even sleeker, with smooth animations that made the bold graphics and headlines stand out even more.
In website design, there are a lot of opportunities to incorporate branded elements in new ways that are hard to show in the static design phase.
Like a loading animation.
Many sites don’t use loading animations, because they only appear for a second or two. Barely enough time to make an impact. But we took advantage of the quick time, using that signature “N” to turn an extremely brief visual into a surprising branded element.
It offers a sneak peek at the new Nortek Data Center Cooling experience while creating a connection between the user and the symbol—so they recognize it when it appears in ads or emails that follow their site visit.
Just the Beginning
With a brand-new look, feel and website, Nortek Data Center Cooling has a much stronger online presence that will only get better as it grows.
And we got something brand new, too—a rewarding partnership.
Since the site launched, we’ve continued to help Nortek not only create new marketing materials for their Data Center Cooling brand, but we’ve helped bring storytelling to their other brands as well.
And I’ve learned a lot about heating, ventilation and air conditioning along the way.