Brand Marketing

Don’t Fear 65 .com – Call to Action Gone Wrong

Picture 2I think the domain name DontFear65.com is clever, but the call to action banner is poor execution (in my humble opinion). In the United States and perhaps elsewhere, 65 is the typical age at which many people aim to retire, and certain tax benefits are given. Symetra Financial is trying to convey that retirement isn’t something that potential customers need to fear.

The problem is that I saw this banner advertisement on a website I visit frequently, but for short periods of time, so it barely caught my attention. As I was clicking to another website, I glanced up at the huge 728×90 banner, and I read, “Don’t fear 65.com,” with the 65.com standing out the most. My first reaction was that it was cool a 2 digit numeric website was being advertised, and my second reaction was to type in 65.com, which didn’t resolve to any website.

I thought it was weird, so I went back to the site where I saw the banner and realized they were advertising DontFear65.com rather than 65.com. Although I am not a potential customer nor part of their target audience, my opinion doesn’t matter; however, there are probably people who thought the same thing, and they are sending traffic to 65.com.

The problem with call to action domain names is that they sometimes tell people to take action on other domain names. In my opinion, the worst offenders are CVBs (Convention & Visitors’ Bureaus) who were often so late to the party they had to settle with CTA domain names, such as VisitXYZ.com rather than XYZ,com. Many are also so full of themselves, they are unwilling to work with the owner of the XYZ .com domain name since they feel its their job to bring visitors to the area, rather than a team effort.

Call to action domain names aren’t so bad when they’re found in text links, but put them on a banner or billboard, and space the words apart, and you end up with a nice call to action for the other domain name. At best you lose traffic, and at worst you are building your competitors’ brand and traffic.

ESPN Goes Local; Gets Domain Names

ESPNI read that ESPN is going local in a variety of sports markets, and I noticed that they bought many of the domain names they will need to expand their online presence and protect the brand.   ESPN first went local in Chicago in April, and is known locally as ESPN Chicago, and they are planning to enter the Boston market in September. Assuming they find success, they will presumably continue to expand locally, in addition to radio stations they own in many large markets.

Although the network uses the ESPN.com URL for its Chicago site, they forward ESPNChicago.com to that preferred URL: ESPN.Go.com/Chicago. They also own many other domain names for markets in which they may have expansion plans. Some of the local domain names were purchased many years prior as part of the local ESPN radio network, while others have been purchased more recently. I did a quick scan of some of the bigger sports markets, and it looks like ESPN was on top of their domain registrations before making their announcement.

ESPNBoston.com – Registered 2005
ESPNChicago.com – Registered 1999
ESPNNewYork.com – Registered 2007
ESPNSeattle.com – Registered 2008
ESPNDallas.com – Registered 2007
ESPNDenver.com – Registered 2006
ESPNPhiladelphia.com – Registered 2009
ESPNMiami.com – Registered 2008 – Not owned by ESPN
ESPNNewOrleans.com – Registered 2009 – Not owned by ESPN
ESPNLosAngeles.com – Registered 2009
ESPNDenver.com – Registered 2006
ESPNDetroit.com – Registered 2007
ESPNSanFrancisco.com – Registered 2009
ESPNStLouis.com – Registered 2008
ESPNTampa.com – Registered 2009
Many more…

This is a credit to ESPN’s marketing smarts, because I have seen other companies decide that they are only going to use their primary URL and not worry about the local URLs. Unfortunately, when human nature takes over and people type-in what they assume will be the URL, they come across a domain name that isn’t owned by the company. In the end, the company ends up spending thousands of dollars purchasing the domain names from their cybersquatting owners, or they spend even more money on UDRP filings and other litigation.

Buying these domain names for $10/each now could save thousands of dollars in the future. Even if they don’t expand in all of those markets, they are still protecting the brand at a relatively low cost.

Defensive Domain Registration Advice

Many companies defensively purchase typos and alternative extensions to prevent others from owning them. Defensive domain name registrations aren’t simply for brand protection though. They can also be done to ensure a company prevents another similar company from entering a newly created industry or niche using the type of product as the company’s brand or website.

I spent a couple of hours at the New York International Gift Fair today, and among the hundreds of exhibitors, I saw a company that had a new type of product. This unique gift item may or not be a hit, but it certainly is a one of a kind product that can and will be knocked off by others. The .com of the product type is currently sitting unregistered, available for anyone to register for under $10.

While this product is not similar to door knockers, I will use   door knockers as an example. A few years ago, I saw a guy selling unique metal door knockers at the show. I forgot what they guy’s company was called, but when I was looking it up a few months ago for a friend, I was curious to find out who owned DoorKnockers.com. You probably guessed it… the guy who I saw at the show owns it. Smart guy.

Now back to this new product. I left the show intrigued about the product, but we weren’t convinced to buy it (for my parents’ business). We stopped by dozens of booths, so they are all blending together right now.   I Googled it, but the problem is the guy took a very common utilitarian product (hundreds of thousands of Google results), and he made it completely unique. Because of this, I can’t find his company when searching for the term.

I get that many companies want to have a unique brand rather than a generic industry term for the company name, but even if he simply registered this product .com name, he could at least prevent others from knocking his product off and owning the space online.

The takeaway here is that if you develop your own special type of product and the .com is available, register it. Even if you don’t want to set up a website, at least you can forward that to your brand’s website and prevent someone else from buying it.

Verizon Wireless Story with Two Lessons

VerizonThis is one of my favorite stories I like to share with friends, and there are two takeaways from it. I’ve been a Verizon Wireless customer since 1994 or 1995. For years, I would never say I was a happy customer, but I was always fairly satisfied with the customer support and phone service I received.   I had phone issues from time to time, and I hated waiting on line for tech support in-store, but there was nothing really major.

Sometime around 2002, I had major issues with a new LG phone, and I knew a couple of friends who had similar issues. For whatever reason, the local stores wouldn’t take it back, and I was going to have to buy a new phone, in the middle of my contract, meaning I would have to pay full price. I was irritated and angry. I couldn’t understand why Verizon wouldn’t take care of a long-time customer, and I was frustrated that I would have to pay a few hundred dollars for a new phone (a lot of money for a grad student), or pay to cancel my contract and switch providers.

Using my search engine skills, I spent a few hours late one night trying to find the email contact information for any Marketing Executive at VZW who would could commiserate with my troubles. I found the name of an Executive, and I wrote a long email describing the troubles I was having. I apologized that I was contacting him since it wasn’t   a marketing issue, but I told him that as a student of Marketing, I knew it ultimately was hurting his brand if the customer service lacked.

This email was going to be my last resort, and if it failed to work or didn’t illicit a response, I was going to have to decide whether or not to sever my 7 year relationship with Verizon. Not knowing the Executive’s email address, I sent it to as many variations @verizonwireless.com as I could create. First Name.Last Name, Last Name, First initial.Last Name, FirstNameLastName…etc – probably 10-15+ emails. Nearly all bounced except one – success at 12:34 am! I went to bed feeling like I had given this a good effort.

At 7:40 the next morning, an hour or so before I woke up, an email arrived in my NYU inbox:

“Thanks for taking the time to write me re: your frustrations with your phone. Let me assure you that your lack of satisfaction is my business, whether it’s a marketing issue or not. Your allowing us the chance to make it right is fully appreciated.

I’ve copied [Name Redacted] our VP of Wireless Devices, on this message. I’ve asked have someone contact you directly to resolve this problem as soon as possible. You’ll hear from us within 24 hours.

Thanks again for your message. I hope we can rapidly restore your confidence in Verizon Wireless.”

Within just a few hours, I was in touch with the VP of Wireless Devices, who had already reached out to the local store, where I had been previously turned down. By mid-afternoon, I had a brand new phone and I was a very happy customer.

It’s been seven years since this incident, and I am a very happy customer of Verizon Wireless. Not only have I upgraded to a Blackberry with unlimited data and 900 minutes (up from a phone with 400+/- minutes), but my account has three other phones on it as well, and I am enrolled in the VIP program. On my phone alone, I’ve spent over $5,000 with Verizon. I was not surprised to hear that this Marketing Executive is now the Chief Marketing Officer of the entire company.

I think there are two lessons that can be learned here:

1) If you feel that you are not being treated as well as you should by a company, as a last resort, contact company executives and calmly explain the problem you are having. Don’t expect an answer, but hope for the best. If you don’t know the proper email address, do what you can to find it, and you are bound to be successful.

2) If you are a company executive, no matter how good your marketing strategy is, your customer service is equally important. If the sales process is great but a customer has a problem with even one customer service representative, your marketing dollars are wasted. You need to look at every company representative as a marketer. Every customer touchpoint should provide an equally good experience. Sometimes people who aren’t marketers need to think like marketers. It can take years to cultivate a good customer/brand relationship, but it can take just seconds to destroy it.

My relationship with Verizon probably would have ended seven years ago if it was not for great customer care from the top of the organization.

Do Sports Teams Get Domain Names?

NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL

I want to examine whether American professional sports teams seem to value generic domain names for their websites. Surprisingly, there are a whole host of sports teams that do not own the exact keyword .com domain name of their brand, even though they are losing a considerable amount of traffic as a result. I searched NHL, NBA, MLB, and NFL team websites, and I found that National Basketball Association teams own the most team name.com domain names, and National Hockey League teams owns the least.

Since most sports team names are very generic, they are expensive to acquire. However, losing ticket sales and team memorabilia/collectibles revenue (or having to pay a commission for them) should be incentive enough to spend the money to buy these domain names, as evidenced by the purchase of Bobcats.com by the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats last year.

By nature, American Internet users seem to default to the .com domain name when looking for a specific brand, and that holds true for sports teams. This can be witnessed by examining the public stats of generic sports domain names during the season. For example, Dolphins.com seems to spike at the beginning of the football season and then in the middle, even though the Miami Dolphins didn’t own the domain name until a recent UDRP filing that was Suspended.

It’s interesting to note that it doesn’t appear that the league or team values have anything to do with the acquisition of generic .com domain names. The Dallas Cowboys are one of the three most valuable American professional sports franchises. Yet they weren’t willing to pay $275,000 for their generic .com domain name when it was up for auction (which is a story in and of itself).

According to reports in Forbes Magazine, the approximate combined value of teams in each league were: NFL: $30.6 billion, MLB: $14.5 billion, NBA: $11.4 billion,   and NHL: $6.6 billion. This doesn’t parallel the % of teams that own their own .com domain name, although the least valuable league does own the least amount of .com domain names.

Percentage of teams that own their .com team name:
NBA: 76.7%
MLB: 73.3%
NFL: 53.1%
NHL: 26.7%

National Hockey League Teams – Do they own team name .com?
Buffalo Sabres Yes
Carolina Hurricanes No
Colorado Avalanche No
Columbus Blue Jackets No
Dallas Stars No
Detroit Red Wings No
Edmonton Oilers No
Florida Panthers No
Los Angeles Kings No
Minnesota Wild Yes
Montreal Canadiens Yes
Nashville Predators No
New Jersey Devils No
New York Islanders No
New York Rangers No
Ottawa Senators Yes
Philadelphia Flyers No
Phoenix Coyotes No
Pittsburgh Penguins No
San Jose Sharks No
St. Louis Blues No
Tampa Bay Lightning No
Toronto Maple Leafs Yes
Vancouver Canucks Yes
Washington Capitals No

National Basketball League Teams – Do they own team name .com?
Atlanta Hawks Yes
Boston Celtics Yes
Charlotte Bobcats Yes
Chicago Bulls Yes
Cleveland Cavaliers No
Dallas Mavericks No
Denver Nuggets Yes
Detroit Pistons Yes
Golden State Warriors Yes
Houston Rockets Yes
Indians Pacers Yes
LA Clippers Yes
LA Lakers Yes
Memphis Grizzlies Yes
Miami Heat Yes
Milwaukee Bucks Yes
Minnesota Timberwolves Yes
New Jersey Nets No
New Orleans Hornets Yes
New York Knicks Yes
Oklahoma City Thunder No
Orlando Magic No
Philadelphia 76ers Yes
Phoenix Suns Yes
Portland Trail Blazers Yes
Sacramento Kings Yes
San Antonio Spurs Yes
Toronto Raptors Yes
Utah Jazz No
Washington Wizards No

National Football League Teams – Do they own team name .com?
Arizona Cardinals No
Atlanta Falcons No
Baltimore Ravens No
Buffalo Bills No
Carolina Panthers Yes
Chicago Bears No
Cincinnati Bengals Yes
Cleveland Browns No
Dallas Cowboys No
Denver Broncos No
Detroit Lions No
Green Bay Packers Yes
Houston Texans No
Indianapolis Colts Yes
Jacksonville Jaguars Yes
Kansas City Chiefs No
Miami Dolphins Yes
Minnesota Vikings Yes
New England Patriots Yes
New Orleans Saints No
New York Giants Yes
New York Jets No
Oakland Raiders Yes
Philadelphia Eagles No
Pittsburgh Steelers Yes
San Diego Chargers Yes
San Francisco 49ers Yes
Seattle Seahawks Yes
St Louis Rams Yes
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Yes
Tennessee Titans No
Washington Redskins Yes

Major League Baseball Teams – Do they own team name .com?
Arizona Diamondbacks Yes
Atlanta Braves Yes
Baltimore Orioles Yes
Boston Red Sox Yes
Chicago Cubs Yes
Chicago White Sox Yes
Cincinnati Reds Yes
Cleveland Indians Yes
Colorado Rockies No
Detroit Tigers Yes
Florida Marlins Yes
Houston Astros Yes
Kansas City Royals Yes
Los Angeles Angels No
Los Angeles Dodgers Yes
Milwaukee Brewers Yes
Minnesota Twins No
New York Mets Yes
New York Yankees Yes
Oakland Athletics No
Philadelphia Phillies Yes
Pittsburgh Pirates Yes
San Diego Padres Yes
San Francisco Giants No
Seattle Mariners Yes
St. Louis Cardinals No
Tampa Bay Rays No
Texas Rangers No
Toronto Blue Jays Yes
Washington Nationals Yes

Note to Politicians: Pay for Your Domains

Because I get many Google Alerts each day, I am on top of just about every news article mentioning domain names. An article theme that is especially common has a title that goes something like this: “Cybersquatter buys domain name of XXXXXX candidate.” Instead of focusing on the fact that the politician forgot to renew his/her domain name, these articles almost always focus on the domain buyer.

On generic domain names, I have very little sympathy. I don’t think I own any common last name domain names, but I believe those are pretty much fair game since nobody has the rights to claim them as their own with many others sharing the same name. Other types of names can be more of a gray area depending on how common the phrase is, but regardless of my opinion and feelings about cybersquatting is the need to protect domain names from others who might want them for a variety of reasons. The onus should be on the politician for choosing not to renew his domain name.

Here are a few suggestions for political candidates when it comes to domain names:

1) Make sure the domain name is registered in the politican’s name, with privacy if he doesn’t want to give out an email address of an assistant. Campaign managers and workers come and go, and if they are getting the notices, the domain name may not be renewed.

2) Register domain names for several years and check on the registration every now and again. Set Blackberry/iPhone calendar alerts for a few years from now, and assuming the calendar is imported when a new mobile device is purchased, the alert will still be active.

3) Keep an active credit card on file

4) Don’t dump campaign domain names – even if they are time sensitive (Silver2008.org for example). They may not be useful in 2012, but they will have inlinks and perhaps some traffic. Maybe the domain names aren’t valuable to the campaign, but they could be valuable to a competitor or a cybersquatter who will monetize it. For $8, it should be a no brainer.

Just like the family who can’t afford to pay the bank for it’s home loan, a domain name will become available for someone else much like a home becomes the property of the bank if there’s a default. Most registrars give plenty of notice and time to renew, so there shouldn’t be a reason not to do it.

No matter what, a previously used campaign domain name has value to someone, and the politician should do whatever it takes to make sure he/she hangs on to associated domain names.

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