Brand Marketing

Investing in Call to Action Domain Names

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Major corporations seem to like call to action domain names nearly as much as they like their branded domain names. Call to action domains can be more memorable to a consumer than just the brand, and it typically encourages the consumer to take action quickly. They are less expensive than generic domain names, and they’re more readily available.   They can also be more trackable than a standard brand URL.

Call to action domain names are frequently used for a short period of time, usually during a company’s interactive or integrated marketing campaign. They are liked by companies because they can help spread a message, usually in a fun way. They aren’t typically expensive to acquire, and many of the creative ones that incorporate a company’s brand are unregistered.

For a domain investor, the problem with owning these domain names is that there are several obstacles in selling them:

1) The company could easily change a word to differentiate and buy an unregistered version (CallUsASAP.com could easily be changed to CallUsRightNow.com)

2) Because they are short campaigns (usually), the budgets for creating the advertisement are typically more limited – with the exception of the Super Bowl and a few other big advertising times.

3) It’s hard to find one of these names before it’s in demand, and to acquire a great number and hold on to them, it can be cost prohibitive.

4) Usually the advertising agency creates the advertisement, and they don’t want to spend their allotted budget on a domain name, when the money can be billed for internal labor costs rather than external unrecoverable costs like a domain name.

5) On a creative pitch, there are usually 5-10 ideas and 3 final ideas presented to the client.   Between the internal agency pitch and the pitch to the client, there isn’t much time to negotiate a domain acquistion.   Agencies won’t pitch an idea to their client unless they know exactly how much a domain name costs.   Getting in touch with some domain owners is difficult, and if they can’t secure the name before the final client pitch, the idea may be ditched. The last thing they want to do is get the client on board with a great idea, only to tell them it’s not feasible because of cost or because they can’t even get in touch with the domain owner.

I get a lot of emails from people asking my opinion on call to action domain names. While I think many of them are neat from a consumer’s perspective, I think it’s very difficult to sell them to a company. I highly doubt a company will tailor an expensive advertising campaign around a domain name, and they probably wouldn’t acquire it for a future campaign (all of this assumes the domain owner is even able to get in front of the marketing decision maker).

My advice is to own a couple of these names if you must (buying them at registration fee), but don’t spend too much money on them.   Buying call to action domain names is more like playing the lottery.

***Edit***
Just for further proof about this, next time you see a call to action domain name, do a Whois History search on it. See if the company was the original registrant and when the domain name was registered. If you see that it was previously owned by someone, drop them a note and ask them about it. I’ve learned some interesting things about domain acquisition strategy (much of it I can’t post because they asked me not to make it public). I think you’ll find that most of the call to action domains that are being used were originally registered by the company using it, rather than being older domains acquired in the after market.

President-Elect Barack Obama Gets It

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Subscribe to Elliot's BlogLooks like President Elect Barack Obama knows the importance of keyword domain names: http://www.change.gov.

Print is Dead!

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Subscribe to Elliot's BlogWith an invitation that read, “Print is Dead,” Radar Magazine celebrated Halloween and their final issue this weekend. Elsewhere on the print-front, Men’s Vogue magazine is being folded into Women’s Vogue magazine, according to a report in Bloomberg.   Additionally Portfolio magazine will be producing 10 issues instead of 12, which was also reported in Bloomberg. Portfolio, which operates online at Portfolio.com is an upscale lifestyle publication. It certainly was a smart move to acquire that fantastic domain name.
It’s a tough time to be a print publication these days. Printing costs are up, delivery costs are up over the last year, rent and real estate taxes at production facilities are up, and readership and advertising is mostly down. Many advertisers are being required to show a “real” ROI for their advertising dollars, and advertising online allows them to do this.
While a good domain name isn’t essential to being online, not having your keyword domain name can mean the loss of thousands of readers. Just from personal experience, ElliottsBlog.com, which I also own and redirect to my blog, receives a fair amount of traffic, too. This traffic would be lost if I didn’t own this alternative domain name. In the case of Portfolio, it would presumable lose traffic if the site was located on PortfolioMagazine.com, as people assume they would find it at Portfolio.com.
At this moment, there are many companies who don’t own their ideal domain name, and I bet some of them don’t even realize the amount of leaked traffic. While it might just be a few thousand unique visitors, it’s still a considerable amount since advertisers are paying based on readership. Circulation numbers (circs) have been critical to newspapers and magazines forever, so you’d think they would do a cost/benefit analysis of acquiring the generic domain name that consumers might expect to find their favorite mags.

Crispin Porter & Bogusky "Gets It" for Volkswagen

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Subscribe to Elliot's BlogUsually when I see a newly-created, branded domain name in a commercial using a non-.com extension, I find that the .com was purchased after the commercial went live, frequently by domain speculators hoping to cash in on user errors. Although the lost traffic is arguably light, it’s still enough to warrent purchasing the .com of the domain name for around $7 and forwarding any traffic to the intended website.
I saw a commercial tonight for Volkswagen, and it encouraged viewers to visit the website, RoutanBoom.org. I was curious to see if they purchased the .com as well, since this was obviously a uniquely created domain name specifically for this campaign.   The good news for Volkswagen is that their advertising agency, Crispin Porter & Bogusky, seem to “get it” when it comes to domain names, and they purchased the .com and .net on behalf of VW.
Thumbs up to CP+B on this smart domain purchase, and also for the new VW campaign, which is receiving positive reviews.

Smart Domain Acquisition Strategy & Global Branding

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When you see this logo, do you think soccer.tv, football.tv, futbol.tv, calcio.tv?   Perhaps this sport goes by another name in your country, and you would use an IDN to find the site. Regardless of what you call the sport depicted in the logo, Michael Schneider has it covered because of his smart domain strategy. Michael acquired nearly every single worldwide language variation of the word. The branding is unique, and he doesn’t have to worry about losing visitors due to language differences.
By doing what Michael did with his portfolio of related domain names, he can have wonderfully unique branding that many others couldn’t match.   Had Michael just registered one or two versions of the term, it’s likely he would have lost visitors who entered a different term into their browser box.
Other companies have also done what Michael is doing with their brands. Playboy, Apple, and the NBA have   spent billions of dollars branding their logos and imaging, and they are able to use an icon to signify the domain name.   Michael has spent 7 figures acquiring his soccer/football related domain names, but the logo clearly shows what users will find when they enter their familiar keyword with .tv.
Just imagine you are watching a game..they can then freeze/pause on the ball…just add a www. to the left of the ball, a .TV to the right of it and you just ‘spoke’ to the whole world during the game with what carries most sentiment – the ball.
I think this is a smart domain acquisition and global branding strategy.

0

I know it’s a holiday weekend, but I think everyone needs to take a few minutes to read Ron Jackson’s interview of Rick Schwartz. In the domain space, Rick has been something like a soothsayer, and when he speaks, I listen. While we don’t all own the same quality domain names as Rick, the things he is saying does affect all domain investors.

If or when Google decides to pull the plug and PPC as we know it drastically changes, there is going to be a lot of tumult in the industry. While quickly and efficiently monetizing domain names will be difficult and domain values will be impacted, domain owners need to keep the following things in mind:

  • Businesses who want to be online need a domain name
  • Advertisers will still want to advertise on relevant domain names
  • People will continue typing-in domain names looking for products or services
  • Easy to remember and relevant domain names are the most desired
  • Consumers typically have certain web browsing patterns, and many type in their keyword and .com as a starting point

The point is that while making easy money from domain names won’t be possible, there are still going to be plenty of opportunities in the domain space. Some people will have to sell more than they have in the past in order to maintain the same revenue levels, so some deals may be had.  I recommend buying domain names that would make sense to be developed. Just because a domain name did well parked, doesn’t mean that it would be good to develop.

I still believe the greatest ongoing revenue generating opportunity is selling advertising space directly to advertisers on developed websites. I believe websites are the newspapers of decades ago. Websites get the eyeballs that newspapers once received, and advertisers want to reach them. Motivated consumers are untapped leads that businesses would like to acquire.

I also believe that as companies continue to migrate their business online, more will get it, and more will want (or even need) the domain name that describes their business or industry. Generic and category defining domain names are rare, and they hold considerable value. Selling domain names to end users that get it will be the driving force behind the future growth of domain values.

Changing times call for changing strategies.  Those who adapt and adopt will survive, and those who sit back will not. Who knows when all of this will happen, but I think it’s important to be prepared for the worst. Read Rick’s interview and judge for yourself.

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