Dr Martens has launched a new website at freedm2.com through Saatchi Interactive. The site aims to increase engagement with customers using a range of multimedia interactions and ‘social’ elements, such as creating and sharing videos and music.

But it is all in Flash, you can’t buy shoes, and the registration doesn’t seem to work…

Have a look at Dr Marten’s latest online offering at freedm2.com. I don’t think you can deny that Saatchi Interactive have beautifully executed some photography and Flash work. (I couldn’t register but may be I’m being a stupid user somehow)

But I do have some concerns:

1.      All Flash, Only Flash, and nothing but Flash?
Of course you can do great things with Flash. And this site shows the creative opportunities in many ways. But equally we know the challenges not just in accessibility but for search engine rankings.

I’m a little surprised, particularly given the recent River Island accessibility debacle (see River Island’s “To our disabled customers: an apology”), that there appears not to be even the slightest nod towards considering these issues.

Looking at Saatchi Interactive’s site it too is clearly Flash-dominated. And as a result you can’t find it on Google at all, and the few pages that are indexed by Google are from an older version of the site which was a modicum more accessible.

The message I’m hearing from advertising agencies is that they really don’t care about accessibility (or SEO).

(Try navigating around the freedm2.com site for a bit and then hit the back button. Yikes, you’ve left the site completely…)

2.      Can’t buy shoes online?
Why aren’t Dr Martens selling their shoes online? Saatchi’s MD, Neil Hughston, says “we’re not looking to sell products right now, we’re looking to engage likeminded people. Over time we’ll look at measuring how brand perception has changed…”

Sounds like some pretty tough and accountable ROI metrics there then.

I only hope Dr Marten are not selling online because they think people won’t buy their products online. Because that’s clearly lunatic thinking.

I can only assume it is because of commercial “channel conflict” issues, or because of systems / infrastructure issues. I guess it’s like Diesel starting off selling online and then stopping? Presumably it’s to drive store sales and keep their retailers happy?

Even this seems to me to be increasingly outdated thinking. And it certainly isn’t customer-centric. People want to give you money online for your shoes – please can we?

3.      Can’t buy shoes but do you buy the brand argument?
So brands have decided to get into “social networking” and “engagement” and create their own little branded myspaces?

I totally buy the need for better, and different, forms of customer engagement, but I don’t think brands can directly “host” and own these spaces. Community does not come from the top down. A brand can’t enforce it.

Brands should stick to facilitating community. I don’t want to come to your party, but you can sponsor the drinks at our party if you want.

Michael Nutley, NMA Editor, wrote recently “All the evidence suggests that the most customers want is for brands to facilitate their community and stay out of the way.”

I agree.

My feeling is that this site is beautiful but flawed in a number of ways. But maybe I’m just too old these days, just not cool enough (don’t think I ever was, actually, though I have owned plenty of Dr Martens in the past)…?

What do you think?

Ashley Friedlein

Ashley Friedlein

Published 21 September, 2006 by Ashley Friedlein @ Econsultancy

Ashley Friedlein is Founder of Econsultancy and President of Centaur Marketing. Follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (7)

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Jon Bovard

Jon Bovard, Director of eCommerce at A well known Telco

The phenomenon of Flash/DHTML dominated/Bad SEO sites is much much worse/better (depending upon your point of view) at the Luxury end of the market.

Check out a few examples

All stunningly beautiful sites...but All sites are either Flashed to hell and back.. or DHTML'd to death.

In my experience these design decisions are nearly always client led.. usually within business'es where the balance of power lies with the branding people rather than the commercial/eCommerce people.

In time, I believe two things will affect this balance of power.

1. Commercial reality of revenues (or lack thereof..)
2. DDA related litigation..

Will be interesting to watch how these sites might be forced to change their architecture in due course...


almost 12 years ago

Paul Walsh

Paul Walsh, CEO at Segala

Where do we start Ashley?!

First, please allow me to articulate my immediate emotional response; freedm2.com is ugly when you go beyond the main index page, confusing, and it’s inaccessible to even some able bodied, tech savvy Web enthusiasts. So what hope does the average end user have? I couldn’t even register.

I feel like I’m talking in a room with an echo because I keep hearing the same words over and over again. Don’t use ‘flash only’ sites because users hate them and they’re inaccessible to a lot of potential users.

If companies want to build flash sites, they should use agencies such as Agency Republic who build great accessible customer acquisition micro sites. http://business.o2.co.uk/ That is, sites that are used to generate more revenue. And I don’t think anyone would argue with O2’s brand strategy to ‘engage’ given that it’s worth £17.5b.

I tried accessing the site using my default browser, Firefox and got the message “A script in this movie is causing Adobe Flash Player 9 to run slowly. If it continues to run, YOUR COMPUTER MAY BECOME UNRESPONSIVE. Do you want to abort the script”? Well, let me think about that for a second, eh yes, I would like to “abort”. The word ‘abort’ doesn’t exactly leave me with a positive memory of the ‘brand’.

Who’s to blame?
In short, we all have a part to play. BIMA hosted a brilliant networking dinner recently entitled ‘creativity vs usability’. Dermot O’Mahony, Head of Online Customer Marketing, O2 was the invited guest speaker. Dermot’s main message was that agencies have a role to play in educating the client about what technology to use and how to position the brand online in a usable and accessible fashion.

So, clients should take some of the responsibility, but I don’t think it’s just the clients’ fault if the ‘experts’ are delivering this type of inaccessible, ugly Web site that doesn’t work properly.



Paul Walsh
Segala, CEO

Do you design, build or test Web sites?
Join the Segala-Certified Affiliate Programme for Accessibility
Charter Membership extended until 31st October 2006


almost 12 years ago


Jill Barringer, Marketing Manager at MC Research

Cute, but ultimately an vapid experience. It looks dated and feels like a vanity website, one only for the 'look how blinking well I can code'.

Regarding registration, it does say: "This site is currently in beta. Full launch 29 September 2006." They may want to reconsider that.

I love DMs and still have mine from the early 90s! I'd love to have read the spec from DM about what they wanted the site to accomplish.

Anyone know the agency involved?

Jill Barringer

almost 12 years ago

Ashley Friedlein

Ashley Friedlein, Founder, Econsultancy & President, Centaur Marketing at EconsultancyStaff

The agency is Saatchi & Saatchi Interactive (http://www.saatchi-interactive.com).

Funnily enough I worked a little for Dr Martens back in my Wheel agency days so I could comment on what the client is probably like but that wouldn't be very sensible (and out of date...).

But I do agree with Jill - why aren't Dr Martens going after us relatively 'grey' customers? Surely there's a big market for them in people who have a strong emotional bond of old to their DMs to get the latest version...? But I don't really want to have to hang out in an online house and share music files - I just want to see them and buy them.


almost 12 years ago

Paul Walsh

Paul Walsh, CEO at Segala

I'm all for 'interactive' but brands need to remember that they can't 'create' a community just because the technology enables them to do so and because it seems to be a cool thing to do. As Ashely says, just build a site where users can view the product and then buy it.

If they want to really surf the Web 2.0 wave then add a blog to the site so users can comment in an open forum like any decent community Web site. Placing trust in the user to comment on your brand is the new wave, not implementing technology that came out last night.


almost 12 years ago



I am currently studying Dr.Martens and how they could reposition the brand back onto the market. I remember docs as a kid! they were so popular and everyone had them in school. but when i see kids now even 10 years later they have no interest in wearing them.. Is this the changing consumer taste or have Doc Martens just fadded away??!?

over 11 years ago



I know one of the developers contracted to help build this site, and I can say that your analysis is spot on. The project managers (if you can call them that) at Saatchi were only interested in the look and feel of the site (or maybe just the money), and no thought was put into how it would actually work. The beta that was put up in September was in a non-functioning "this is all we've got" state to appease the client.

Contractors were hired *after the launch date* to come and fix what they could, again with no design or direction, in order to address complaints of the client, and as far as I know the site still isn't done.

There should be a sign on the front door of the house that says, "Don't waste your time here."

over 11 years ago

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