Brand Marketing

Citigroup Really Gets It!

Citi LogoLast week I blogged about Citibank’s purchase of ThankYou.com to go along with its “Thank You Rewards Program.” While it may seem like the obvious domain name for this program, many corporations simply assume its customers will find out more information about a branded product or service by navigating to the corporate site instead. Last week, I congratulated Citibank on this wise purchase.

I was reading a post on Frank Schilling’s SevenMile.com blog about Citigroup’s branding of Mortgage.com, and I wanted to bring attention to this. Clearly the ThankYou.com purchase isn’t just a one time smart move. There is a strong marketing culture at Citigroup, and its domain acquisitions prove that the company understands its customers’ web surfing habits.

Mortgage.com is miles ahead of any other domain name in the mortgage industry. Sure, Citigroup executives could have said “if a potential customer wants a mortgage from us, they will navigate to Citigroup.com or Citibank.com.” This could have been true, and nobody would really say otherwise. However, the Citi branding of Mortgage.com allows Citigroup to make their pitch to ANY potential customer who wants a mortgage and visits this site. Instead of paying $x.xx or more per click to attract customers to its site, they now own all of these leads. They’ve eliminated the competition that existed, and they don’t have to compete with other advertisers.

It’s so easy, but so many companies just don’t understand this. I can’t say enough positive things about this great purchase.

**Although Mortgage.com was acquired by Citigroup, when they purchased ABN AMRO Mortgage Group, Inc.

Barry Diller’s IAC Split into Five Units

This morning, Barry Diller’s Internet conglomerate IAC announced they will split into five separate publicly traded companies.   The break down is as follows:

IAC
Ask.com, Citysearch, IAC Advertising Solutions, Evite, iWon, My Way, Match.com, CollegeHumor, GarageGames, and  Gifts.com

HSN
HSN TV, hsn.com, and  Cornerstone Brands

Ticketmaster
Ticketmaster

Interval International
Interval International

LendingTree
LendingTree

By breaking IAC up into smaller operating units, investors will be able to focus on the individual businesses in each unit, and one poor performing website will have less of an impact on the value of the entire company. Personally, I like the unit that will retain the IAC brand.   More information about this can be found on Yahoo Finance.

Citibank Gets It!

Shortly after graduate school, I worked at Wunderman, the direct marketing agency under the Y&R Brands umbrella. I was a Project Manager on the Citibank retail merchandising account, one of the agency’s largest clients. Wunderman created direct mail packages, financial center brochures and financial center advertising including displays, window slicks, sandwich boards, ATM machine screens, and many others.

In 2004, Citibank unveiled their “Thank You” program, a rewards program that thanked customers for banking with Citi. I worked with some great creative people at Wunderman (Gus Tejerina, Barry Dickson, and Terry Pierce among many others) who came out with some great catchy advertising based on the “Thank You” theme.

At the time, I hadn’t purchased my first domain name, so suggesting that Citibank should buy ThankYou.com was never something I considered. In retrospect, with such a huge branding initiative undertaken by Citi, this domain name was critical for Citibank to own. Up until 2006, the domain name was owned by a company called 800 Brands, Inc. Sometime in late 2006, the domain name was purchased by Citibank, where it now anchors the “Thank You” rewards program.

Because of the major branding done by Citibank and its advertising agency partners, ThankYou.com became an essential asset that Citibank needed. Although they probably ended up paying much more for the name than they would have paid had they bought it before the campaign, the fact that they spent the money shows that they are smart marketers.

When a company unveils a new campaign or marketing slogan, they should always prepare for the best case scenario. They should ask, “if this becomes huge, will people expect to find more information at slogan.com?” If the answer is yes or maybe, they should buy the domain name before the campaign is dropped. Not doing this can result in missed contact opportunities or added expense when the name is needed.

NFLatino.com – The NFL es Muy Inteligente

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I just saw a neat advertisement from the National Football League targeting Latino football fans celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. The advertisement is in Spanish with English subtitles, and it directs viewers to NFLatino.com. Knowing that some people may accidentally navigate to NFLLatino.com, the NFL owns the typo of their domain name, and it forwards to the correct website. Its’ a small thing like this that ensures there is no leakage in direct navigation traffic.

Thank You, Calvin

It’s very cool to see someone like Calvin Ayre in touch with what people are saying about his company.

If he wants to run any direct/interactive marketing ideas past someone in his key demographic (28M, Blackjack player, Maxim subscriber, Sports fan, Ketel/Red Bulll drinker…etc.), he can drop me a line! When I play, its usually at the Tropicana, and I know that gaming direct marketers are some of the smartest and most savvy in the business.

I do have one suggestion for Calvin. Instead of forwarding CalvinAyreFoundation.com and TheCalvinAyreFoundation.com to NewCalvinAyreFoundation.com, I believe he should just use CalvinAyreFoundation.com since “New” is no longer in the Bodog domain names. Since they are all being forwarded, it doesn’t really matter so much, but it makes more sense now.

Bodog’s CEO Responds

In his response to my post, Calvin Ayre, CEO of Bodog misinterpreted my thoughts. In reference to my blog post about branding vs. generic domain names, Calvin stated, “I don’t agree with his thinking that a brand cannot rebuild itself when its domain name is generic.”

What I said was, “Yes, a brand can be built around a generic domain name, as demonstrated by the Hotels.com example. However, I don’t think a generic domain name should be used to rebuild a brand.” I agreed with Bodog’s decision to continue with the Bodog brand rather than buying a generic domain name, as Frank Schilling recommended.

I think Bodog’s strategy is spot on, and not only are they not losing customers, all of the news surrounding this news story is certainly allowing Bodog to reach more customers. After reading all of the news events, people know what Bodog is, people know what Bodog does, and most importantly, people know where to find Bodog. The point of my blog post was that Bodog was smart to keep the Bodog brand, even though their original domain name was taken.

On a side note, it’s great to see a CEO like Calvin take the time to blog.  

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