Canon, the popular camera maker, has recently launched a project titled Your Second Shot. The goal of the project is to recapture special moments that were “lost” – namely, that resulted in dark, blurry photographs because of low lighting. The project centers around Canon’s new HS SYSTEM technology, which is designed to shoot high-quality photos in low-light settings and reduce blurring.
One story featured on the Your Second Shot website is called CBGB’s. The Postelles, a rock band from New York, played their first real gig at the legendary CBGB’s, but the photos taken to commemorate the event didn’t come out well. So Canon recreated the gig at the same venue (despite CBGB’s having closed down in October 2006) and photos were retaken using Canon cameras featuring the HS SYSTEM technology. Now, the Postelles have quality photographs depicting them playing on the CBGB stage.
When I first saw a commercial for the project, I noticed it displayed a Canon.com URL that was not very user friendly or recallable: Usa.Canon.com/YourSecondShot. But when I checked further, it turns out Canon owns both YourSecondShot.com and SecondShot.com, which both point to the project website.
Not only is the Your Second Shot project a pretty cool concept, it’s also very cool to see Canon using great domain names to support the campaign and make it easier for its audience to find when they practice direct navigation.
The McRib is back. For the first time in 16 years, McDonald’s is offering its boneless pork patty sandwich at restaurants nationwide for approximately six weeks. And people are thrilled.
The McRib was first introduced to the McDonald’s menu in 1981, but since 1994, it has not been offered at all restaurants at the same time. According to McDonald’s USA President, as quoted in the Wall Street Journal, the McRib simply does not sell well throughout the year because people get tired of it. But the scarcity created by having only certain restaurants serve the sandwich at certain times has created a base of die-hard fans who will travel substantial distances – sometimes even hundreds of miles – to munch on a McRib. A meteorologist in Minnesota even developed a McRib Locator website, where users can peruse a map to see where the McRib has been spotted recently. Here’s a screenshot of the site:
The mystery of when or even whether the McRib will appear is a huge part of its appeal, and the sandwich has become somewhat of a cultural icon. There are hundreds of Facebook groups dedicated to the McRib, including those demanding that it return permanently, and various McRib pages have thousands of “likes.” McDonald’s couldn’t buy this kind of fan loyalty and fervor even if it wanted to, but the company clearly understands the McRib’s appeal – billboards with a photo of the sandwich carry the simple but sassy tagline, “Sorry for being awesome.”
Yet, despite the McRib’s huge following, McDonald’s owns McRib.com but does not point it to any content. According to Alexa, traffic to McRib.com is up over 600 percent this month, so clearly people are going to the site looking for content. Just think of what kind of marketing it could do if the domain resolved to a specialized site with all of the things McRib lovers use the Internet for: locator maps, social networking opportunities, McRib meet-ups, etc. The only thing that would be better than that would be for McDonald’s to offer the McRib and the Shamrock Shake at the same time.
FairWinds was featured in the CMO Council’s report, “Doing Away with Foul Play in Sports Marketing,” which was published Monday. The report offers a lot of interesting insights into the issues sports marketers deal with, including counterfeit merchandise, unauthorized ticket sales, online brand hijacking and ambush marketing. Our piece discussed the various opportunities and challenges these professionals face in the domain name space, from dealing with cybersquatting and other forms of infringement to the risks and marketing potential of new gTLDs. The piece is available on our website, and to download the full report, visit the CMO Council’s site.
One summer when I was growing up in Wisconsin, my parents took my sisters and me to Door County, the peninsula that juts out into Lake Michigan, just north of Green Bay. It’s a popular vacation spot, sort of like Cape Cod for Midwesterners. In Door County there is a town called Sister Bay, which is the home of Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant and Butik, a restaurant known for more than just its Swedish meatballs. Al Johnson’s has a grass roof where live goats graze all day long. Take a look:
The goat-studded roof is such a key part of the Al Johnson’s experience that the owners have trademarked the scenario. Also, in addition to the domain name AlJohnsons.com, the restaurant also owns GoatsOnTheRoof.com, which points to the restaurant home page.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Al Johnson’s has sued other businesses for copying their shtick, including the Tiger Mountain Market in Rabun County, Georgia. The Tiger Mountain Market puts goats on its roof as well, and owns the domain name Goats-On-The-Roof.com. Al Johnson’s sued under the Lanham Act, federal legislation that protects trademarks in the United States.
The owner of Tiger Mountain Market, Danny Benson, ended up paying Al Johnsnon’s a fee for the right to use goats on its roof as a marketing tool. But in terms of online marketing, Benson may have won out slightly: when searching for the term “goats on the roof,” Tiger Mountain Market outranks Al Johnson’s on the results page in Google and Bing.
Yesterday I was an in-studio guest for the Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU 88.5 American University Radio. Every Tuesday, Kojo covers different tech-related topics, and yesterday’s show focused on new top-level domain names and what they will mean for Internet users. Tina Dam, ICANN’s Senior Director of Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs), and Evgeny Morozov, a visiting scholar in the Program on Liberation Technology at Stanford University and Contributing Editor at Foreign Policy Magazine also appeared on the program with me.
Much of the discussion centered around new IDNs, and the benefits and risks associated with expanding the domain name space to include extensions in non-Latin scripts. We also talked a good deal about new generic TLDs (gTLDs) and the impact they would have on both businesses and everyday Internet users, including increased opportunities for cybersquatting. I also broke the news to Kojo that a third party owns KojoNnamdi.com, much to his disappointment.
Overall, I thought it was a good discussion; I did butt heads a few times with Tina Dam, but the conversation was productive. I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to go on WAMU to discuss some of these issues, although I would have liked to talk a little bit more about ICANN transparency and accountability before time ran out.
One thing that stuck out to me during the interview was a comment that a local listener had sent in over email during the show. She runs a small business and owns her business name in .COM, but is concerned that with the flood of new gTLDs, she will have to spend a lot of money registering her domain across new extensions. Tina Dam just brushed off this woman’s concerns, saying she already had her piece of the Internet and really wouldn’t have to worry about new TLDs. Clearly Dam doesn’t understand the extent of cybersquatting and the importance of defensive registration, especially for smaller businesses that likely do not own trademarks. But what was more upsetting was that her response is really reflective of ICANN’s attitude toward small businesses – they continue to overlook the interests of the little guy, not only small business owners but Internet users as a whole.
If and when it comes time for businesses to decide whether to apply for their own gTLD or register domain names in other new gTLDs, one question marketers will have to ask is how they will spread the word about new domain names. Specifically, how will they persuade Internet users to type new combinations into their browser bars, as opposed to sticking with standard forms like .COM, .CO.JP and .FR?
Here’s another question: if and when marketers do accomplish that goal, how will new gTLDs affect the way everyday people perceive certain messaging? It stands to reason that once Internet users get used to seeing a variety of words or phrases to the right of the dot, they will begin to perceive any word.word construction as a possible domain name.
I thought of this because I recently saw a Sony ad that featured the slogan “Make.Believe,” pronounced “make-dot-believe”. (The accompanying website is sony.com/makedotbelieve and Sony also owns makedotbelieve.com, although it currently doesn’t point to the campaign site.) Because I regularly deal in (and constantly think about) domain names, I thought it sounded like a domain name, and wondered if Sony had plans to apply for a .BELIEVE gTLD.
I’m willing to bet that right now, most people who see the campaign do not interpret “Make.Believe” as a possible domain name. But if the proposed flood of TLDs become reality, then five or ten years from now, once they become accustomed to seeing anything.anything advertised as a website, they just might interpret it that way. If Sony plans to continue the “Make.Believe” campaign beyond the next few years, and ICANN’s unpopular plan becomes reality, I wonder if they will look into securing the .BELIEVE TLD – not only to create the make.believe domain, but perhaps to extend “Believe” to customers who could offer loyalty in exchange for personal websites and email addresses.
Last weekend, I started building a tree fort for my children. It turned out to be a bigger project than I anticipated, and I only got as far as partially completing the subfloor, which you can see pictured here. Building around a tree presents some serious challenges in terms of keeping everything level, square and sturdy.
During my third hardware store trip of the day this past Saturday to buy supplies I didn’t realize I would need, I decided to pick up some wood shims to help level things out. (For those of you who, like me, aren’t master carpenters, shims are small wooden wedges that are designed to fill in gaps or spaces between objects – in this case between the joists that will support the floor and the perpendicular boards that tie into the tree with 8 inch lag screws.) I bought Nelson brand shims, and when I looked at the package I noticed the company uses the domain name shims.com. For a company that specializes in shims of all kinds, this is a great domain name to own. Here’s a picture of the package:
While the company is called Nelson Wood Shims, both nelsonshims.com and nelsonwoodshims.com are available, which I thought to be particularly interesting. They own a great marketing domain that makes it easier for people looking for “shims” in general to find their product, but they don’t own the obvious domains that would help protect their brand and reputation.
I’m going to get back to building this weekend, and I’ll be sure to post a picture of the finished product here on the blog when I’m done.
Internet Listing Service, a group based in Toronto, sent fake invoices to small businesses, non-profits and individuals. The invoices, which were designed to look like they had come from domain name registrars, told recipients that if they did not pay the amount listed, they would lose their domain names. Some invoices also included charges for search engine optimization services.
The fake bills were apparently convincing enough to scare recipients into paying. By the time the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) shut Internet Listing Service down earlier this week, the group had scammed victims out of over $4 million.
Like I said, I’ve seen a good deal of domain name scams working in the domain space for over 10 years now and the fake “renewal invoice” scheme is nothing new, but to see one that specifically preys on small businesses and non-profits is particularly disappointing.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) recently ran an article titled “The Web’s New Gold Mine: Your Secrets” about new types of tracking technologies that gather personal information about Internet users. The companies behind these technologies then sell that data to other companies to be used for highly targeted advertisements. The WSJ calls this “the fastest growing business on the Internet”.
Most people have heard of cookies, the small bits of text stored in a web browser that retain information like passwords and the contents of online shopping carts. These new technologies, referred to as “pixels” or “beacons,” work in a similar way to cookies in that they track users’ behavior online. But instead of just recording what websites they visit, beacons record what they do on those sites, like what they type in or where they move the mouse. The beacons then build a highly specific profile of each user, and companies sell these profiles in bulk on exchanges similar to financial markets.
The companies that purchase this information use it to disseminate very specific, targeted advertisements. Ad networks also engage in this practice, and collect fees from the targeted ads they place on websites. In the profiles, users are not identified by name, but that fact does little to ease feelings that their privacy has been violated. Internet users report that they find some of the ads “unnerving”.
This may have to do with the type of information that passes through these beacons. Previously, many online advertisers felt that targeting consumers according to health or financial information was off-limits, but that is no longer the case. And now, many tracking companies have expressed interest in moving into social media sites to mine the vast quantities of personal information that users share there. With no legal limits on how consumer data can be used, it is unclear how far tracking companies and advertisers will go.
Internet users tend to associate questionable practices like this with disreputable websites, assuring themselves if they stay away from suspicious-looking sites, they will be safe. This rule of thumb does not work with ad tracking. The WSJ conducted a short experiment and found that the top 50 U.S. websites placed 3,180 tracking files on its computer, 2,224 of which came from tracking companies. The biggest culprit was Dictionary.com, depositing 223 files from tracking companies.
There is clearly a significant ethical dilemma here. Even though the files do not store information by users’ names, it is conceivable that they could obtain other forms of personally identifiable information. Moreover, the ads that users see as result of the profiles the trackers develop can be harmful: the WSJ cites one example of a teenage girl – a minor – who gets bombarded with weight loss ads every time she goes online.
The companies that develop these technologies and sell the information they obtain do not see it as a violation, but rather as a service to consumers. Targeted ads, they say, are what consumers want – they provide highly relevant information as opposed to annoying clutter.
Certain advertisers are struggling to come to terms with this conundrum as well. According to another WSJ article, Google is having a particularly hard time. Until now, the company has been hesitant to tap its enormous pool of user data, but competition may force it to reconsider what it means to live up to its unofficial “Don’t be evil” motto.
We would really like to know what our readers think about this issue. There are points to be argued both in favor of and against ad tracking, and we welcome your input. Leave us a comment and let us know what you think.
It’s no secret that brands have been enthusiastically turning to social media as a marketing platform and an innovative way to engage consumers. I have noticed that many companies are now advertising their social media pages in commercials or viral videos, often in place of their own website’s address.
One notable example is Best Buy: the retailer set up a Twitter account under the name “Twelpforce,” where representatives answer questions and concerns that customers submit by tweeting to @twelpforce. The accompanying commercials feature the address for the Twitter account, twitter.com/twelpforce.
I think the campaign is interesting, and a good utilization of the interactive nature of Twitter. But there are also potential risks in directing users to a social media site instead of a branded website. One significant risk that may not be obvious is user distraction. On social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, branded content is surrounded by links to other pages and other content. While visiting a brand’s Facebook page, for example, an Internet user sees not only the branded content, but links to her profile, her news feed, her message inbox, friend requests and notifications, not to mention the profiles of numerous other users. With all that information so close, it takes a lot to keep her on the brand page.
I don’t need to mention that there are also numerous benefits when engaging with Internet users via social media. Even though companies typically cannot use social media sites in the same way they can use their own branded websites, where they have more control, marketers know that there is an enormous community of users just a click away on sites like Facebook and Twitter. That opens up the possibility of reaching a great number of people who would not be as reachable via a campaign microsite outside of social media.
Both social media sites and branded sites have their pros and cons, but great marketing campaigns play to the advantages of each. That is why it is crucial to own and properly utilize the best social media usernames and the best domain names for your brand. Well done, Best Buy for registering twelpforce.com and redirecting it to the “Twelpforce” Twitter page.