Brand Marketing

Domain Hall of Shame: Cuil.com

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This has to be one of the poorest naming/branding moves I’ve seen in a while. Cuil.com just launched, and apparently the term “cuil” is suppose to be pronounced “cool.” This big news is currently being covered on the homepage of CNN. My buddy Thunayan (who never sells his company’s domain names) already has a search engine on Cool.com.   Seriously, what were they thinking?   This doesn’t pass the radio/tv test.

Forwarding Traffic to an End User to Sell a Domain Name

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I haven’t done this before, so it’s purely speculation, but if I wanted to sell a high-traffic category killer domain name to a large company, I might voluntarily forward the traffic to the company’s main website for a month to prove its worth. If I owned (and wanted to sell) a name like Tools.com, I might consider forwarding the traffic from that name to Craftsman.com (toolmaker owned by Sears).   Assuming traffic to the name was strong, I wouldn’t even have to tell them I was doing it, as they would see a spike in their traffic, and their web analytics would tell them it was coming from Tools.com. Since they are a manufacturer and distributor (via forward to Sears.com), they would have the highest profit margin on tools, and a converted lead would be worth the most to them.
After seeing the Craftsman website and their redirect to Sears to make a purchase, I can tell the web marketing team at Sears must be fairly strong. Knowing this, I would imagine that they would be very intrigued if they saw a large unexpected spike in sales, and they would attempt to track why this spike occurred. I am sure they would be happily surprised to see Tools.com forwarding to them (at no cost), and they would then be disappointed when the test was abruptly ended. Armed with the data from the test, they might be willing to make a strong offer for Tools.com, since they would certainly have the data to justify a purchase.
Oftentimes, buying a category killer domain name means making a huge purchase without any hard data on the domain name. A buyer may be able to determine approximate traffic details, but they wouldn’t be able to get a great sense of who is visiting a domain name without actually having the data from the site, and they certainly wouldn’t be able to give a fair estimate on the traffic conversion. This makes it difficult for companies to spend hundreds of thousands (or millions) of dollars on category killer domain names. If they had the data, they may be more inclined to make an offer – or perhaps the domain name isn’t worth as much as we think it’s worth.
Boiled down, the value of a domain name is determined by the value it can bring to a company. Most companies doing business online use ROI (return on investment) calculations to determine how much to spend on a marketing campaign or expense. If we give these companies the opportunity to see what they are missing by not owning a category killer domain name, they might actually realize just how important a domain name is to their brand, and how valuable it could be in a competitor’s hand.
Again, I have no experience with this, but I would imagine it would be worth foregoing a month of PPC to do this test. Also it would be important to consult with a domain attorney (like Brett Lewis or John Berryhill) to ensure you are not putting your name at risk by potentially confusing consumers with the forward – obviously should be done before you start your campaign.

Generating Revenue While Building Your Brand

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Although I haven’t set a merchandise shop up for Lowell.com yet, I’ve heard that these shops can be a nice source of passive revenue, and they help build brand recognition. David Castello emailed me to let me know about a large hat sale that was made via the Nashville.com merchandise shop.
While CCIN netted a couple hundred dollars from the order of 55 hats, the greater benefit is that there will be a bunch of people receiving hats with their logo, and hopefully some of them will actually be worn by those who receive the hat! While many entrepreneurs pay big bucks for various branded tsotchkes to give away, having a shop allows people to actually brand your site for you! CafePress offers an easy to use and operate white label shop, and I plan to set mine up in the next couple of weeks.
This is one reason why having a fun logo is important to set your brand apart from other websites.

The Only Good News…

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The only good news about the 2008 Super Bowl is that my fraternity brother (Ruben Ortiz) starred in the Taco Bell commercial. Oh… and the Red Sox are still World Series Champions.

Case Study: Register Your Company's Domain Name

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A world famous chef is planning to open a new restaurant in a few months. This restaurant is going to quickly become one of the top restaurants (probably in the world). Out of curiosity, I checked, and the .com domain name of the exact restaurant name is unregistered.
Here’s the kicker… The restaurant group bought a different (shortened) domain name for the restaurant with a hyphen in the domain name. Guess what. The non-hyphenated name is unregistered.
Ordinarily, I would consider being a good samaritan and grab both names to give to them at no cost. The problem is that if I do this and can’t get in touch with the proper person, I could be accused of cybersquatting, as the restaurant name is not a generic term. Sometimes it’s just not worth taking a chance.
The moral of this is a reminder to register the .com domain name of your business before telling anyone the name!

Jet Blue: Web Deal – Where?

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I am going to go on a bit of a late night rant – my apologies. When I see a good marketing campaign, I do my best to point it out, so others can emulate it. When I see a poor marketing effort, I try to point out the flaws, so improvements can be made.

Before I start my rant, I have to say that Jet Blue is my new favorite airline. For the past few months, I’ve tried my hardest to only fly Jet Blue, which is difficult since they don’t fly everywhere I fly (yet). I love the fact that they have televisions on their aircraft, and their employees are always super friendly. One thing that has always bothered me though is their online reservation drop down menus. They ask for departing and arriving cities, the date of travel, and the number of passengers, which is all pretty standard. My question is why does the # of passenger drop down menu default to zero passengers? Wouldn’t they assume that at least one passenger is flying? I’ve been booted back to the main page for forgetting to change this one too many times. While minor, this is a frustration that can easily be eliminated by thinking like a passenger rather than a marketer.

You are probably asking where is the flaw in their marketing effort rather than their reservation system. Today I received an email from Jet Blue, touting their new wireless access on one of their airplanes. I clicked through to their homepage and saw this: “Featured web fares: $69 each way New York, JFK to West Palm Beach.” Unfortunately, there wasn’t a clear mention of when this is applicable, and I just spent the last 10 minutes searching various travel dates with no luck. I am sure I could call, but I would probably get a “sorry, that’s a web deal only” answer. It’s just frustrating when a company presents an offer but makes it very difficult to find the offer. It’s one thing if they stated the travel dates and you can’t use the tickets on those dates, but it’s annoying to have to scour the website to find it (with no luck).

One company that actually makes it easy to find the special web deals is Greyhound Bus Lines. They offer a link to the special web deals page where you enter the date of travel, and you get the advertised fare. Print your tickets and get on the bus. Piece of cake.

When a company makes a great offer and makes it easy to redeem said offer, they’ve done a great job. The point of direct marketing is to generate a calculable ROI. Jet Blue was able to elicit a response from me, but they made it very difficult for me to book a reservation, so I went down as an unconverted lead instead of a sale. Marketers should think like consumers, and they should make it as easy for the consumer to respond as possible.

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