This poster caught my eye recently for two reasons. First was the highlighted letter K, which drew attention to the intentional misspelling of the word “respect.” Second was the simplicity of the advertising message that included only a slogan and a prominently displayed domain name. Curious to find out what ‘respekt’ “means to me,” I visited getsomerespekt.com, which led me to a site for Cricket Communications, a wireless provider that offers broadband, mobile phones, and pay-as-you-go plans.
A bit more research revealed that this domain name and the poster I saw were part of Cricket’s new “Respekt” ad campaign, which features the classic Aretha Franklin song and promotes Cricket’s low prices (“respect for your wallet”) and the flexibility of pay-as-you-go plans (“respect for your freedom”). Cricket’s logo features an oversized green K. The company centers its branding around this symbol, which is why the word “respect” is spelled with a K in its promotions.
Normally, I would think getsomerespekt.com is a terrible domain name – it’s long, it has nothing to do with the Cricket brand and it requires consumers to remember to misspell a common word. But Cricket covered its bases well with this campaign and didn’t put all of its stock into a single domain. The domains getsomerespect.com, cricketrespekt.com and cricketrespect.com all redirect to getsomerespekt.com, meaning that consumers do not have to remember the misspelling or the entire slogan. In addition, other advertisements, both print and on television, include Cricket’s primary domain name, mycricket.com, giving consumers yet another way to access the company online.
This campaign stood out to me as an interesting example of how brands can utilize domain names as creative marketing tools. By combining it with a catchy slogan and a hugely popular song, Cricket was able to use the getsomerespekt.com domain to underscore and strengthen its marketing message, as well as present consumers with a new platform through which to interact with the brand. You've got to respekt that.
What comes to mind when you see a van like this, parked on the side of the street with its license plate completely covered in spray paint? Most likely, you suspect some type of illegal or illicit activity, and you might cross to the other side of the street when you pass it. If a police officer were to see this van approaching, there’s no question that he would pull it over – aside from making the van look completely suspicious, obscuring license plates is illegal.
Anyone who has taken a written test for their learner’s driving permit knows how many laws there are regarding driving (quick – how many feet do you have to stop behind a school bus?). These are designed to both maintain order on the road and keep people safe. We’re used to having rules for driving and for other parts of our lives. So why is it that the Internet, despite being over a decade old, is still largely devoid of laws?
Take one example: the online marketplace. In reality, it basically functions as a free-for-all bazaar, where you know very little about the elements and agents at work, and anything you can imagine is for sale and bartering and haggling are par for the course. A woman in Boston even came across an ad putting her son up for adoption on Craigslist earlier this summer. With the economic recession, the instances of bartering on the Internet have increased substantially and now there is even a Web site where people can barter for health care.
People who participate in the online buying and selling process rarely know anything about the other party involved. Sometimes, as in the case with the false adoption ad, the sellers are scammers who attempt to dupe unsuspecting buyers into sending them money for fake or even non-existent goods (or the promise of sharing in princely riches as we all have seen in advanced-fee scams). Many people lack the training or the good sense to be able to detect this type of fraud, and as a result, continue to be preyed upon online. Lawlessness runs rampant on the Internet, largely due to the fact that it is easy for people to conceal their identities. Online, it’s passable to cover up your license plate with spray paint in order to avoid being held accountable for your actions.
This July, the World Intellectual Property Association (WIPO) proposed a series of amendments to ICANN’s Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP) to make the UDRP process paperless. In its proposal, WIPO mentioned that it had received over one million pages from UDRP filings in 2008 alone, and approximately ten million pages since the establishment of the UDRP. The new process, dubbed eUDRP, will not require any hard copy submissions, but rather will be done completely electronically. WIPO believes that these amendments will make the process more effective, saving both time and money; more forward-looking, because most participants already file electronically; more effective, because it is generally easier to reach other parties through email; more modern; more expedited; and obviously, greener.
I think it’s great that WIPO has taken the initiative to streamline the UDRP process in this way, since a paperless procedure can be much more practical and much more efficient. For one, the changes will eliminate the costs associated with printing and shipping hard copies of documents. They will also allow complainants to contact respondents via email, which has proven to be effective—according to WIPO, email notification is successful in 96% of cases.
For some, however, this is a point of contention; among the comments submitted to ICANN regarding this matter, the main criticism has been that email is not as reliable as a hard copy letter or a fax, and as such, could put Respondents at a disadvantage, or otherwise lead to default decisions based on non-response. However, WIPO has proposed that Complainants still be required to provide a written notice to inform the Respondent of the complaint, along with detailed contact information, in order to give the Respondent adequate opportunity to participate in the proceedings.
WIPO’s proposed amendments take advantage of technology’s ability to expedite procedures, reflect current attitudes toward environmental conservation and will ultimately make the whole UDRP process much more efficient and easier for all parties.
I’ve spent the past week on vacation with my two sons up in Eagle River, Wisconsin. This spot holds a lot of history for me: I’ve come up to Eagle River every year of my life to visit the house that has been in my family for 50 years.
Eagle River is an incredible place with a rich history behind it. The area was carved out by the prehistoric glaciers that moved across the northern parts of the country during the last ice age. Loggers and fur traders were the first to settle Eagle River back in the 19th century, and later in the 1920s, gangsters from Chicago used the town as a hideout during Prohibition. Nowadays, Eagle River has become an ideal getaway spot for naturists. It boasts over a million acres of federal and state forests and is home to the world’s largest chain of freshwater lakes, 28 total, making for excellent fishing. And for those brave enough to face the Wisconsin cold, Eagle River is just as much fun in the winter. It is renowned as the snowmobile capital of the world, hosting the World Champion Snow Mobile Derby every year.
I brought my boys up here to visit family and to go fishing. This was my four-year-old son, Charlie’s, fifth visit, and he caught 22 fish within his first hour! And not just minnows – he caught a mix of perch, bass, crappie, blue gill and sunfish. My two-year-old, Oliver, caught his first fish on this trip. Unfortunately, I had less luck trying to catch muskies. They’re widely known as “the fish of 10,000 casts,” and I didn’t manage to snag one this trip. But I couldn’t be prouder of my two sons.
It’s been great to take a bit of a break and come back to my home state. Still, it will be fun to get back to Washington—FairWinds will be moving from its office in Dupont Circle to a bigger space in Georgetown. New space, new look.
A recent Slate article titled “www.thosenewdomainnames.areforsuckers,” caught my attention last week. With all the controversy over ICANN’s planned rollout of a potentially unlimited number of new generic top-level domains (TLDs), I found the frankness of the title refreshing. As someone who works closely with brand owners, both at FairWinds and CADNA, I have been wary of the prospect of opening up the domain name space in such a radical way. The article explains ICANN’s plan for launching new TLDs with what I thought was an appropriately critical tone, questioning whether or not there actually exists a need for new TLDs. But as the article progressed, I realized that the reporter’s reasoning was completely off base. He actually asserts that cybersquatting is no longer a problem, and that the new TLD program is pointless because “domain names themselves just don't matter that much nowadays.” He claims that most people use search bars to navigate the Internet, and that browsers are now sophisticated enough to be able to “tell” what site the user is looking for, citing Google’s Chrome in particular.
FairWinds has conducted studies that prove that all users, at some point or another, use direct navigation to browse the Internet. Domains do matter, because eventually all users type a domain directly into the address bar in hopes of finding the content they are seeking. Furthermore, nearly all print, radio and TV advertising directs consumers to a Web site, not to Google. Advertising supports users going directly to a Web site, and both user behavior and the enormous traffic to millions of typo- and combo-squatted domains demonstrate it. After all, the vast majority of the tens of millions of cybersquatted domains exist to court type-in navigators.
Cybersquatters understand advertising and user behavior very well, which explains why cybersquatting has continued to increase every year. This article failed to recognize that fact, and also failed to realize how likely it is that opening up with domain name space with unlimited TLDs will exacerbate the problem. Instead, the author claimed that cybersquatters have moved on to social networking sites, insisting that getting one’s identity on Facebook and Twitter is much more important than getting a good domain. This may be true for individuals, but for businesses, a Twitter account or a Facebook page does not even come close to the legitimacy of a good domain name.
Consumers expect to be able to find a business online via its own web page, not to have to sift through social network pages to interact with the brand. And by making a slew of new TLDs available, it will be even harder for consumers to quickly access the brands they seek. If it’s so hard for consumers to remember domains now, as the article attests, how will they possibly remember – across all the products and services they seek out online – if the domain is brand.com, city.brand, product.brand, brand.brand, etc…?
Even though it began so promisingly, this article completely missed the mark on cybersquatting, how domain names are used, and the expansion of the domain name space. These are issues of concern not just for businesses, but ones that will ultimately affect the online experience for everyone, particularly for consumers and everyday users. With so many conflicting interests at stake, it is critical to have accurate information about these issues.
This week, the Wall Street Journal reported on businesses’ struggle to protect their brands on Twitter. Many are concerned about unauthorized uses of their brand name on popular social media sites—Phil recently wrote a post about usersquatting, the uncertainty of harm that usersquatting inflicts and the ambiguity of enforcement mechanisms to put an end to these infringements—and as a result, many are defensively registering usernames to retain control over their brand. In the WSJ’s article, the sentiment offered by Lee Alexakos, Cedar Fair’s corporate vice president of marketing and advertising, "Our name is our brand, and like any company, we're concerned with protecting that."
This Twitter free for all—unauthorized registration and consumer confusion—can be expected in an unregulated space. Such behavior should get one wondering about how things will be in a newly expanded, unregulated domain name space.
The most recent issue of Marketing News briefly mentioned a survey released by the CMO Council about the concerns that marketing executives have over brand hijacking. The third page of this pdf has some information on the survey. Participants were asked to identify the three types of counterfeiting, trademark infringement or online scams that hurt their businesses most. Cybersquatting was the top response at 28.4%. Also on the list was online scams and phishing using hijacked brands and trademarks, at 19.5%. Among respondents who tracked the financial damage involved in this type of hijacking, 39.6% said the cost was greater than 5% of sales and 8.2% said the cost was greater than 20% of sales.
As more and more brands struggle to recover from the damage inflicted by cybersquatters and brandjackers, it becomes increasingly obvious that the best way to deal with these issues is to prevent them from happening in the first place and being choosy about which 3rd party infringements to address and which to ignore.
Last week, when I attended Rep. Boucher’s congressional hearing on the relationship between Internet governing body ICANN and the U.S. government, I was encouraged to see how many representatives are informed on this topic and are looking to get at the source of the cybersquatting problem.
There’s a great opportunity here- Congress is listening. Concerned about their constituents, congressional members are looking to better understand Internet governance, how it is broken and what can be done to fix it. Brand owners, used to bearing the burden of policing the space, now have a sympathetic (and powerful) ear.
As government leaders are educating themselves on domain name abuse, brand owners need to be vocal about their experiences. By providing an accurate representation of the domain name landscape as it exists today, brand owners can show policy makers the magnitude of the problems that they are facing and spur action in the national arena.
It seems like everyone is feeling the economic crunch to some degree. The New York Times reports that even though there are encouraging signs in the economy, the latest disappointment in retail sales signal that people remain cautious. In down markets, individuals and companies alike look for new opportunities to make the most of what they have and to cut back on waste.
Honestly, that’s the up side of difficult times. They force you take a hard look at your personal practices and business practices and make adjustments that are necessary today, but were a good idea yesterday and will still be a good idea tomorrow.
Our clients are cutting back on unnecessary waste by reevaluating their domain name portfolios- it’s a simple way to make a company leaner and it amounts to significant cost-savings. For example, I estimate we have saved our clients over $5MM in fees they were needlessly paying to keep unnecessary domain names. We’ve also helped them recover over 20MM previously misdirected site visitors, which has lead to incalculable new sales, leads and opportunities. One client is putting a price tag on the value of their cost savings and it's shaping up to look like an eight-figure amount USD per year.
Tightening the belt now and getting rid of wasteful spending won’t just help in the current economic setting- when the good times come again, they’ll be that much more profitable.
Southern Company (Southern), a Fortune 500 company that provides energy related services in the South, filed for an injunction against Dauben, Inc, a corporation that owns over 600,000 domain names, to suspend its use of the domains sotherncompany.com and southerncopany.com. Southern, which is a Fortune 500 gas & electric utility, had filed a lawsuit against Dauben over the registration and use of sotherncompany.com and southercopany.com—Southern claimed that Dauben was engaged in typosquatting and was therefore in violation of the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA). The district court found that Southern was likely to prevail in its lawsuit and awarded the injunction to prevent any further damage to the company until the matter was officially resolved.
An appeal filed by Dauben, however, vacated the injunction. The appellate court found that the district court was too quick to assume the likelihood of Southern prevailing in its lawsuit against Dauben. Looking to ACPA, the appellate court determined that Dauben may succeed in its defense using the Act’s “fair use” clause and that the district court did not adequately consider how Dauben’s use of the domains caused “irreparable injury” to Southern.
I’m not a trademark lawyer, but in reading the decision, the language that particularly struck me centered around the appellate court’s dismissal of the “irreparable injury” claim. The appellate court stated that the district court inaccurately assessed the confusing similarity of the typo domain names to southerncompany.com and determined that “the likelihood of confusion test in trademark infringement law is different, and more comprehensive, than the test for ‘confusingly similar’ under ACPA.”
CADNA has been pushing for a more comprehensive ACPA for years now. In order for ACPA to be an effective piece of legislation—in other words, a piece of legislation that creates a deterrent against cybersquatting, which is what it was intended to do when it was passed a decade ago—it needs to be brought up to date. Cybersquatting techniques have evolved and continue to evolve; we need ACPA to evolve along with them or else cybersquatters will continue to find loopholes to avoid accountability.
From conversations that I’ve had, the following description of the ICANN supply chain tends to set off some light bulbs and pique interest:
If you look at this chain and then remember that the GNSO (a major policy development entity in ICANN) was recently restructured to favor the wholesalers and retailers, the conflict of interest within ICANN becomes clear.
It may seem counterintuitive to think of brand owners being taken advantage of; after all, it’s not often that the brand owner is the little guy. But the reality is that brand owners (and all end users that register domain names) are consumers in a system where the wholesalers and retailers control the governing body that regulates the merchandise.
It always strikes me as strange that ICANN tries to position itself as representing the global community—it doesn’t. ICANN started as an experiment for a governing body that turned into a business. Now it’s a business that consistently pursues policies to promote its own interests. I think that members of the Internet community need to view themselves as stewards and be more active in taking back the reigns to make the Internet a more broadly inclusive global organization that fairly balances the needs of every Internet user group without financial bias.