One day soon (it was supposed to be tonight), fictional newsman Ron Burgundy will guest host ESPN’s signature newscast “Sportscenter.” If you don’t like sports and haven’t seen the 2004 classic comedy “Anchorman,” then you may not know what I’m talking about. I can guarantee this will change over the next two weeks as the publicity machine for Will Ferrell’s “Anchorman 2” hits full stride in ways that movie marketing has never seen before. In advance of the movie’s December 18 release, Ferrell and “Anchorman 2” are changing the way movies are publicized by going far beyond action-packed trailers and media tours.
It all started with a tweet from the movie’s protagonist a year and a half ago. @RonBurgundy said “Hey America & Hawaii. Looks like Paramount & my lawyer Gene Tigerworthy have agreed to terms on a sequel to Anchorman. Whiskey sours on me!”
Ferrell, in character as Burgundy, officially announced the new movie on Conan O’Brien’s show shortly thereafter, and a series of teaser videos have trickled out ever since. At the same time, movie studio Paramount and Ferrell’s creative team have been encouraging thirsty fans to produce their own social media concepts, and the groundswell just built from there. Videos, gifs, memes and even an iPhone app have followed. “Scotchy Scotch Toss” costs 99 cents on iTunes. Yes, I bought it and have gotten quite proficient at virtually tossing ice cubes into a rocks glass while being mocked by Burgundy and his dog Baxter.
Two months ago, Dodge began airing commercials for its Durango SUV featuring Burgundy as the pitch man. Turns out that Ferrell filmed 70 spots for Dodge – for free. The commercials are hilarious and have hundreds of thousands of hits on YouTube aside from Chrysler’s substantial ad buy. One commercial, called Staring Contest, has more than two million views. If you have seen it, you are probably giggling right now, and if you haven’t, click here. I won’t spoil it.
An added benefit of the commercials is that they are even funny for folks who have never seen the original movie. While watching a football game over the weekend, one of the Durango commercials came on, and my father leaned over and said of Ron Burgundy: “This guy’s funny.” Had a marketing executive from Dodge been in the room at that moment, he would have jumped for joy like an Auburn fan. My Dad, though pretty hip for 73, never saw “Anchorman” but he was still entertained. To get the joke, it turns out, you need not be in on it.
The prestigious Newseum in Washington, D.C. opened an “Anchorman” exhibit last month, hoping to attract visitors who may not otherwise see its more serious offerings. According to the Newseum website, "Anchorman: The Exhibit" explores the reality behind the humor of the film by telling the story of the challenges women faced when they arrived in newsrooms in the 1970s. Talk about an odd tie-in: a silly movie promoting serious news history.
And now we are seeing the publicity stunts. Last week, Burgundy read the news on a North Dakota television station (never breaking character) and was a guest commentator at the Canadian Olympic Curling Trials (I’m not making this up). And soon, we will have ESPN. Ferrell interviewed Peyton Manning (yep, the Peyton Manning) as a promotional move for “Sportscenter” – calling-out the future Hall of Famer for somehow being able to play quarterback without a mustache. Also really funny.
Take note that we haven’t once mentioned traditional movie marketing tactics which typically include a compelling trailer, print and tv ads, reviews a few days before release and movie stars doing the late night talk show circuit.
Ferrell and company have built frequency over the past 18 months using social media and a drip-drip-drip approach. They released viral videos, didn’t pay a penny for a national advertising campaign and Burgundy has practically become a regular guest on “Conan.”
We will see much more of Burgundy, and in unconventional places, in the coming weeks. If you are interested in learning more, check out Adweek’s detailed story on the efforts by Ferrell and Paramount to promote the movie.
Even though we all know that marketing is constantly evolving, sometimes it takes a sexist fictional gasbag to show us how it’s done. Stay classy blogosphere!
Do you plan to see the movie?
Author: John P. David
A few years ago, my aunt Rosie told me of a great Thanksgiving tradition: After the big meal, her family discusses who should be named TIME's Person of the Year. Since I typically distribute my blog on Thursday afternoons, I decided to offer up the question as a topic for turkey day conversation and included a survey in this post. I have suggested a few nominees , and you can vote for one of them or write-in your own.
Quick background: TIME named Charles Lindbergh its first “Man of the Year” in 1927, and each year since has featured a person, group, idea or object that “for better or for worse has done the most to influence the events of the year.” Previous winners have included U.S. presidents, world leaders, executives, scientists and bad guys like Hitler, Stalin and Ayatollah Khomeini. Concepts and groups win too, such as “The American Soldier” in 2003, “The Protestors” in 2011 (representing the Arab Spring, Tea Party and Occupy movements) and my personal favorite, “You” in 2006 (representing the individual content creator on the Internet.)
My nominees for 2013 follow:
- Edward Snowden: The computer specialist, former CIA employee and former NSA contractor disclosed about 200,000 classified documents to the press. He is considered a fugitive by American authorities who have charged him with espionage and theft of government property. He has been called a hero, a whistleblower, a dissident, a traitor, and a patriot. His actions precipitated an intense debate on privacy and domestic surveillance.
- Jerry Brown: My friend Maria Freed offered up this nominee with an excellent description: “This is the year of efficiency and competency – because there is so little of it at the national level. Governor Jerry Brown saved California from bankruptcy, reduced the deficit and resuscitated its public education system. Now companies are entering the state at a higher rate than others. Who knew a 75-year-old moonbeam was a pragmatist?”
- Chuck Hull. Who? Chuck Hull invented stereolithography, also referred to as additive manufacturing, but mainly known as 3-D printing. In the past year, 3-D printing has been used to manufacture a wide variety of products including turbines by General Electric, artificial human ears and firearms. Though first conceived 30 years ago, the technology gained a foothold in 2013 and is dramatically changing manufacturing worldwide – while posing ethical dilemmas.
- Millenials: The oft-maligned generation born between the early 1980s and mid-2000s are getting newfound respect as innovators. Because social media permeates the personal, academic, political and professional lives of Millennials, it helps foster the type of environment where innovation flourishes. In this New York Times article, a Northwestern University professor said “Millennials work more closely together, leverage right- and left-brain skills, ask the right questions, learn faster and take risks previous generations resisted. They truly want to change the world and will use technology to do so.”
- “Nobody:” During a year that began with the fiscal cliff and ended with the government shut down, political gridlock in the nation’s capital was one of the top news stories of the year. But it’s tough to put a single name to it. Pundits point to Senator Ted Cruz, House Speaker John Boehner or President Barack Obama. Is any single person synonymous with Washington dysfunction and deserving of Person of the Year? Given a lack of leadership, perhaps “Nobody” is the best vote to represent Washington gridlock. (Thanks to my friend Kelly Blum for helping me with this characterization.)
Follow this link to vote in my survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/JQLP79S. I will keep you apprised of the results and look for TIME's winner Dec. 11th. Happy Thanksgiving!
Author: John P. David
Saw my first “perfect gift for Dad” holiday commercial this week. For the man who has everything, you can buy “super-grip” pliers that serve a multitude of macho functions including, this was my favorite, “safely hold materials when you weld and grind.” Does it get manlier than that?
I figure if they can start advertising the holiday season before Thanksgiving (and, alas, even before Halloween), then we can begin discussing marketing for 2014 now. Here are a few things to think about as you plan for ‘14:
Publish or Perish
For years we in the PR game have jockeyed for position to be sources for media outlets. But guess what? Due to the ongoing fragmentation of mainstream media, opportunities to “be quoted” are tougher and tougher to secure. Today, successful marketers have taken on the added role of publishers. We can’t necessarily wait for media to come and cover us, so we have to develop our own content – blogs, articles, videos, research – and distribute it ourselves. How do you become a publisher? There are options: Write your own blog and distribute it to your contact list. Write your own news in the form of press releases and send them out via a private wire service. Create your own informational videos to publish on YouTube. Social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.) offer other ways to publish – either in a free or paid manner. And when you do secure the media hit, publish that too.
On the Road Again
According to a Pew Research Center study published in May, 63% of adult cell owners use their phones to go online, and 34% of cell internet users go online mostly using their phones – not using some other device such as a desktop or laptop computer. Further, mobile Web use is higher among minorities.
The stats tell the tale. If you are not prepared for mobile customers then you are missing out on a major opportunity; so you need to make sure your website is optimized for mobile. If you have the luxury of creating a new site in the near future, be sure to follow the web design approach known as Responsive Web Design. Such designs automatically resize your website based on the device used. So the site’s copy and photos will look good and in proportion whether it is viewed on a desktop, phone, laptop or tablet. It will even re-size when you turn your tablet from portrait to landscape view.
If a redesign isn’t in the cards, a number of third-party vendors can also help improve a site’s mobile performance. Some hosting companies offer options and other “multi-screen vendors” can provide an effective fix. Google provides a list of these vendors here: http://www.google.com/think/multiscreen/vendors.html
If you have a retail business (all businesses, really), be certain that your address is easily found on your website and your phone number can be dialed with a tap from a mobile device. Many of your prospects don’t pick up the Yellow Pages anymore. They grab the nearest internet-enabled device and let Google’s fingers do the walking.
Content Needs to Hum Like a Bird
Have you heard of Hummingbird? The consensus on the street is that Google’s new Hummingbird algorithm places greater emphasis on content rather than keywords. A recent article in Entrepreneur magazine explains it better than I can. Here’s an excerpt: “Hummingbird was designed to focus on the meaning behind the words instead of just the words themselves. This allows webpages that match the meaning of a query to rank better than a page that matches just a few words.”
Further: “This means adding more blog entries and pages to your website which help answer questions that your target audience is looking to have answered. Offering high-quality analysis and expertise on a specific topic makes for a great start to a successful content strategy.”
What this tells me is that the days of creating keyword intensive pages are over. I also hear that appending content with your keywords now has less value. With each new update, Google is moving closer to its overall goal which (we sometimes forget) is to drive you to what you are looking for online – not what clever SEO guys want you to find.
What trends do you see for marketing in 2014? I’m interested, so let me know. And to throw in a shameless plug: I’m on the lookout for companies, big and small, that want to crank-up their marketing efforts in ’14.
Author: John P. David
Embroiled in one of the biggest sports scandals of the year, the Miami Dolphins face allegations of bullying, racism and hazing. The details of “offensive lineman” Richie Incognito’s alleged bullying of teammate Jonathan Martin have been well-reported in recent weeks, and the problems continue to swirl-around a football team that was already struggling.
The Dolphins played on Monday night as a national television audience wondered how the team’s off-the-field problems would affect on-field performance. (They lost, by the way, crumbling in the waning minutes.) The rapidly changing and “he-said/she-said” nature of the Incognito/Martin imbroglio make it difficult to figure out who, if anyone, is telling the truth. While I have no intention of getting in the middle of it, I can tell you that the perception of dysfunction can have a huge negative effect on organizations like football teams or even your business. And there are some great examples of how this has played out.
Ever hear of a guy named John Elway? As an All-American quarterback at Stanford in 1983, Elway was the consensus first choice in that year’s NFL Draft. The (then) Baltimore Colts held the first pick and wanted him. Problem was that Elway didn’t want to play for the Colts because they were awful, and head coach Frank Kush had a reputation as an extremely harsh taskmaster. (Kush’s Wikipedia page reads like a football hazing manual. Among other misdeeds, he was accused in a lawsuit of punching a player in the mouth after a bad punt.) Elway literally played hardball with the Colts. A star baseball player, he told the Colts that if they picked him, he would play professional baseball instead and had even spent a summer in the New York Yankees farm system. The Colts did draft him but the damage was done as Elway eventually leveraged a trade to the Denver Broncos. The rest is NFL history. Elway went on to throw for more than 50,000 yards, won two Super Bowls and was a first ballot inductee into the NFL Hall of Fame. The dysfunctional Colts moved to Indianapolis and went another decade before winning a playoff game.
Or Eli Manning? Coming out of Ole Miss in 2004, Manning too was a consensus first choice in that year’s NFL Draft. The San Diego Chargers held the first pick and wanted him. You see where this is going? Manning and his football legend father said that if drafted by San Diego, Eli wouldn’t play for them. He didn’t even feign other plans, though. The Mannings didn’t like the way the Chargers were run and demanded that Eli be traded before he ever played a down in the NFL. Manning was drafted by San Diego but was then immediately traded to the New York Giants. He has won two Super Bowls and has been a top-tier quarterback for a decade. The Chargers, not as dysfunctional as the Colts, ended up with franchise quarterback Philip Rivers but have only had three playoff wins since.
What about Ryan Clark? Perhaps you haven’t heard of him but die-hard Dolphins’ fans have, and they don’t like him very much. Clark was a prized NFL free agent defensive back in 2010 who rebuffed the Dolphins’ efforts to sign him. (Talk about a hard-hitting safety: Clark has actually knocked opposing players unconscious.) But it doesn’t end there. Clark was widely quoted last year as saying that “no one” wants to play for the Dolphins. Further evidence of Dolphins’ dysfunction manifested in recent efforts to hire as head coaches Jim Harbaugh and Jeff Fisher – both said no. When Peyton Manning was a free agent, he barely gave the Dolphins a listen.
At this stage of the controversy, it is very easy to pile-on and bash the Dolphins, but there’s so much conflicting information out there, it’s tricky to take a hard stance either way. Frankly, I’ve written many blog posts about professional sports including posts about Lance Armstrong, the Miami Marlins, the Washington Redskins and even the America’s Cup. Sometimes I wonder if I’m overdoing it on these topics, but the Dolphins’ scandal has reached national heights, and it is literally what everyone is talking about in my professional and personal circles.
My take in summary is that while the racy details continue to get the biggest headlines, the damage to the team’s reputation will have the greatest lingering effect on the team.
What do you think?
author: John P. David
For years, the public relations sales pitch included a reminder that “perception is reality.” How we are viewed by others helps define us, whether we like it or not. But the definition of perception is actually changing, and it’s not just the mental image that people have of us that matters. Today, we have to look beyond traditional mental imagery and also focus on how we are perceived digitally.
Perception is also digital reality.
Through web searches, review sites and social media channels, the Internet has become the front door for most businesses. In most cases, the first impression and the initial perception that people will have about you and your company will come through the web.
Searches on Google, Facebook and LinkedIn along with reviews from sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp dramatically influence how we are perceived. If we fail to take control of our digital front door, then we are inviting disruptive forces to our branding party.
People still say that they “don’t do social media” and that they steer clear of that “silly stuff.” And statistics support this as more than 15 percent of Americans still don’t use the Internet. While it seems shocking to those of us who live and breathe marketing, millions of folks continue to have no interest in social media channels. While ignorance is bliss, it’s not smart business.
One reason: chaos theory. Or at least chaos theory as I remember it explained in the novel and movie “Jurassic Park.” As you may recall from the story, the ecosystem created on the island for the dinosaurs was so complicated and non-linear that its future couldn’t be accurately predicted. They tried to suppress the dino instinct to reproduce but nature found a way. Chaos ruled.
Imagine that the Internet is now nature and it has a new kind of T-Rex. You can’t hide your image from it. The Internet will find a way.
If someone is looking for information about you, they will find it online – I promise. Everyone has digital breadcrumbs somewhere. The Internet may find benign things like property listings, old newspaper clippings or corporate filings. But it can also find less benign things like arrest reports, lawsuits, and negative reviews and blog posts. If you don’t take control of your online reputation, then someone else will – your customers, your competitors or, worst case, no one (a.k.a. chaos.) Ignore your digital image at your own peril.
Here are a few simple things you can do to protect your online image, some you may already be doing.
Build your social profile. You don’t have to register on every social media site, but you should start with the big boys. Register for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and post your photo and some basic information. Most people prefer one to the others, but you should be registered on all three, even if you are an infrequent user. This will help identify you on the web because these sites have tremendous “authority” with search engines. Google, Bing and Yahoo give greater weight to sites with high authority. This will help people who are looking for you to find the “real you” instead of a namesake or a competitor. And you will have staked a virtual claim on what can become valuable digital real estate.
Google yourself every once in a while. See how you are perceived by the most powerful digital front door, so you can react if something goes wrong or something weird happens. The unrelated namesake of a client once committed a silly, foolish crime that was all over the Internet. When someone Googled our client’s name, they saw links to stories about the foolish guy. While most people knew that our client wasn’t the fool, the crazy story made it harder for potential customers to find him. We fixed it by boosting our client’s social and digital profile. The foolish guy stories didn’t go away, but our client’s links moved up the rankings.
Address negative info. If there’s negative information about your company posted online, you have to react in some way. Review sites generally enable companies to respond to comments, both positive and negative. Take advantage of this option. Other damaging content can be addressed by online reputation management firms which “push down negative results” by publishing positive info to the web on your behalf. Such “suppression” tactics can be successful. We also have helped clients respond to negative posts more directly using our own strategies at www.webfactcheck.com. Most importantly, you need to address negative info in some manner. You may decide to let it ride, but thoughtful consideration should win out.
Whether we like it or not, the digital world helps define who we are. It’s best to address it now and prevent potential chaos.
What do you think? Are you still late or feeling uninvited to the social media party?
author: John P. David
Trader Joe’s opened in my neighborhood, and I’m told the grocery chain has some great products at reasonable prices. Sadly, when I tried to shop there, I couldn’t find a parking spot.
The new location opened last week with much fanfare. However most of the early reviews didn’t discuss the great food but rather how tough it was to park one’s car. Traffic on the highway snarled and excited customers resorted to parking in the lots of neighboring merchants – who had no problem calling tow trucks. One victim was a retired judge. Things got snarky, and local media covered the parking pitfalls with great verve.
Opening week headlines turned from raves about interestingly flavored trail mixes and tasty private label brands to coverage of the logistical shortfall. Social media play was merely average. Alongside comments about the great organic cat food were complaints like “parking is a pain” and “don’t park across the street or you will get towed.”
What’s interesting to me is that Trader Joe’s is actually the victim of a very rare occurrence in marketing known as “catastrophic success.” High demand coupled with limited supply and poor delivery lead to backlash which can actually damage a brand. It almost never happens.
High demand for products is not unusual. We all know that buying the newest iPhone on the day it is released will be tough or tracking down this year’s hot holiday toy or game system may be difficult. We have come to expect that some popular items become extremely scarce (think Tickle Me Elmo), but you don’t anticipate this when you go to buy groceries. You aren’t expecting a hassle. For Trader Joe’s, its marketing message shifted from awareness to damage control with the alacrity of a meter maid short of her quota.
While uncommon, there are some well-known examples of catastrophic success. In 1984, fast food chain Wendy’s gained national attention with its “Where’s the Beef?” ad campaign. In widely played television commercials, a “little old lady” mocked the trend among rival restaurants to offer smaller burger patties on big buns. Staring at just such a burger/bun combo, she grouchily exclaimed “Where’s the Beef?” The commercials led to a major sales bump for Wendy’s, but it turned into catastrophic success when the burger chain had problems keeping up with increased sales and product quality suffered. Wendy’s literally had more business than it could handle. (“Where’s the Beef?” lives on as a catch-phrase used to question the substance of an idea, event or product.)
Fortunately, most businesses don’t have to worry about catastrophic success. Yes, there are instances when products are featured in the media and get a huge bump in sales, or a video about a product or service goes viral and demand dramatically spikes. But most marketing, advertising and promotions require time, planning and frequency.
And it’s very possible that the high level of competition today in most marketplaces make catastrophic success less likely.
When I’m advising clients about the timing of product launches and the like, they often worry about going to market too soon. They haven’t stated it, but they actually fear catastrophic success. I remind them that while they should not launch a product or service before it is ready, marketing efforts can precede an official launch because driving sales and promoting demand almost never happen overnight. Even Apple teases us in advance.
With the remote possibility of catastrophic success, traditional marketing mantras still hold true: State your message in a clean, clear and compelling manner. Highlight the differences between your products and those of your competitors. Repeat, repeat, and repeat some more to build frequency.
Since opening its new location, Trader Joe’s has hired security guards to help direct traffic in its lot, and the initial hysteria has died off. Its catastrophic success has faded. I’m hoping to sample some specialty trail mix soon.
Has your business ever dealt with catastrophic success?
author: John P. David
The Washington Redskins, a longstanding National Football League team, faces pressure to change its name by parties as disparate as President Barack Obama, the Oneida Indian Nation and shock jock Howard Stern.
The president said that if he was the owner of the team, he would change the name.
The Oneidas are running radio ads that say “we should all be able to agree that racial slurs are unacceptable, and they shouldn’t be used to market this country’s capital city.”
Said Stern in a way only he can: “It’s so offensive. And that logo is that big Redskin. It’s like you had the Washington N-Words and you had Sambo with his watermelon. Just change the [expletive] name. Home of the free, land of the brave, meanwhile we came over to this country, stole their land…and killed them all. So give them an [expletive] bone and change the name already.”
Redskins’ billionaire owner Daniel Snyder, who purchased the team more than a decade ago, faces his biggest challenge to date, far eclipsing any coaching or quarterbacking controversy. Yet despite the political and public relations pressure, Snyder has held fast that he won’t change the name of the team. He recently published a letter to fans explaining his position but, curiously, not asking for their feedback.
A friend asked my opinion of the controversy and what I would advise if hired by Snyder and the team. Here goes:
The name is one that is considered offensive by many but in a way that the names of other pro teams are not. The Cleveland Indians and the Kansas City Chiefs, for example, aren’t under a similar siege. The Redskins name is, in fact, closer to derogatory names that have been changed in recent memory. A few years ago, St. Johns University changed its team name from the Redmen to the Red Storm, and Syracuse University recently changed its name from the Orangemen to the Orange. (Both schools note that the changes were part of an effort to be gender neutral with their names.)
The Redskins face a tough predicament. The team has surveyed Native Americans, and the results suggest that many aren’t offended by the name. In fact, several members of the aforementioned Oneida Nation have even said they are fans of the football team.
But the name sure sounds racist to the naked ear, and keeping it promotes the normalization of an epithet.
When it comes to situations like this, I like to take a hard look at the public relations upside versus the downside. In many instances, the answer becomes crystal clear.
If the team can sway the opposition, the upside is that it gets to keep its name, push-back the controversy in the short term and move-on to focus on football. The downside will be that the name issue will likely loom for years to come. It probably doesn’t go away altogether.
If the team decides to change the name, the upside is that the controversy will be over for good, end of story. The downside is that the team has to handle the PR defeat and go through a challenging and expensive rebranding effort.
But is the decision that easy to place into context? I venture that this is not just a matter of dollars and cents for the NFL franchise.
Owner Snyder has largely taken on the villain role in this controversy. Does his tenacious stance to keep the name make him a racist? Nobody has suggested it yet and I don’t think he is, but it’s not an outrageous allegation. Aside from a public relations defeat and having to write a big check for new marketing expenses, what’s his downside risk? Here’s where it gets tricky.
One of Snyder’s key business interests is Dick Clark Productions, which produces iconic televisions shows including the “Golden Globe Awards,” “American Music Awards,” “Academy of Country Music Awards” and “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest.”
These are incredibly valuable brands. If advising Snyder, I would be concerned about backlash filtering its way to these profit producing, high-profile telecasts.
What if the team doesn’t change the name and Justin Timberlake or Rihanna decides not to attend the AMAs in protest? How much fuel is added to the fire if Tom Hanks or Sandra Bullock appears on “The Daily Show,” for example, and says they won’t accept a Golden Globe from an organization owned by Snyder. Imagine Blake Shelton or Carrie Underwood boycotting the country music awards? (On the plus side, I can’t imagine the syrupy Seacrest taking a stance on anything.) None of these situations are that far-fetched, and any one of them would launch the controversy into the stratosphere of public awareness and social media debate. At that point the pressure would reach such heights that the name change would be inevitable.
Given that the Redskins name controversy has the potential to infiltrate his other business interests and do harm beyond the gridiron, I think the decision to change the name becomes much clearer and easier to make. The downside risks prevail. As a business executive first and a football team owner second, my guess is that Snyder will eventually follow my recommendation and change the name.
What do you think?
author: John P. David
Recently, I had lunch with two very smart guys, and one of the main topics was whether or not a new company needs a dot com in its website address. It was an interesting conversation.
If you have tried to register a domain name recently, you understand where this is going. Seemingly every two to three word combination of words followed by a dot com has already been registered. One word domain names? Forget it — gone ages ago. But if you choose a lesser regarded dot net or dot org, then you can own nearly anything you want. In fact, while nearlyanything.com is taken, nearlyanything.net, .org and .info are wide open. Looks like nearlyanything.com is owned by a squatter who is sitting on it with the hope that one day the next Steve Jobs will offer him a million bucks for it. (My fellow squatters know who you are.)
This story starts with a new business idea that I and a few partners have been discussing for the past few months. It has to do with how companies deal with rogue bloggers and stems from an experience we had with a client earlier this year. The concept is to offer a way for companies to effectively respond to negative blog posts written about them online, and I thought I had come up with the perfect name: Web WatchDog. Not only did the name fit the message but I fell in “business love” with it. Of course, webwatchdog.com was already registered but I was undaunted. I bought webwatchdog.us and decided “damn the torpedoes,” full-speed ahead.
Then I went to lunch. The smart guys at the table said they thought the new business idea was a solid one, but what about the dot com? If we wanted the entity to be the “Web Watchdog” they said, then we needed the dot com.
“But, but, but,” I protested. I said these days, doesn’t the value of the domain have more to do with what you do with it than the address? I suggested that the word Google meant nothing before it was marketed Amazon is a river first and a retailer second And I then I offered that I know of successful businesses that don’t have the dot com.
I was shot down. Almighty Google is a dot com as is Amazon. New companies that choose to go without the dot com must have enough marketing firepower to counter the downside. And what if you build your brand and then a competitor forks over the dough to buy the dot com associated with your name. Not a good situation. Overall assessment: A company is better off owning their dot com.
In this instance, I decided to try to buy the dot com; and if I didn’t get it, be prepared to change the name. Alas.
Later that day, I called the guy who owns the domain and asked if he was willing to sell. Turns out that he was a domain name broker, and he was absolutely willing. I asked how much he wanted for it? He said: “I generally don’t like to give a price as I have found it works better if you make me an offer first.” Voice in my head: “This is not going to end well.” We went back and forth on his philosophy, and it reached its frustrating peak when I said “when I’m selling something, I generally disclose what the price is.” In the end, the broker said he was looking for at least five figures for the domain — way out of the ball park.
While I could go into a full-phased rant regarding the guy’s sales technique and analyze why he’s holding out for five figures for a domain he has owned for eight years, I will not.
One reason is that I also happen to be a domain name squatter, but I’m fairly confident that none are worth five figures. Here are some that I own and why:
- MiamiPRFirm.com and several variations. Why: to control web real estate in my market.
- EmmaDavid.com and JackDavid.com. Bought them for my kids.
- Blogifact.com. Early working name for the reputation management entity.
- ProjectCuba.com. Just seems like a name someone will want someday, hopefully sooner than later.
- Roverback.com. Sounds kind of cool and I was surprised it was available.
Are you squatting on any dot coms, hoping for a future payout that will fund your retirement? Ever had someone make an offer? I would enjoy hearing your stories.
As for our new business idea, we have chosen a new name and one I have also fallen in “business love” with. Soon I will be telling you more about WebFactCheck.com. It’s a business concept that we believe has great potential. The website was just completed, so if you choose to visit, you will see the angle we are taking. And you will also see that it ends in dot com.
Author: John P. David
My memories of sailboat racing as a young man came flooding back over the past two weeks as I watched the America’s Cup races being broadcast from San Francisco. The event concludes today in one final, winner-take-all race in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge. Oracle Team USA completed a miraculous comeback after being down eight races to one against Emirates Team New Zealand. The final race begins at 4 pm EST.
This year’s contest features 72-foot catamarans (twin-hulled sailboats) that rise-up on hydrofoils when the breeze is right and can reach speeds of 50 miles per hour. Most sailboats plod along at about five mph, and folks who recreationally race single-hull sailboats will tell you they have rarely been on a boat that exceeds 10 mph. The hyrdofoiling breakthrough is one that will transform sailboat racing forever. How dramatic is this increase in speed? Imagine if drivers in NASCAR were going 300 mph.
Having spent many of my formative years on sailboats with my father and brothers and racing from point-to-point in South Florida and beyond, I can certainly preach about life lessons learned from my experiences. Being in a competitive atmosphere with grown men teaches you a lot of things: teamwork, the chain of command, how to tell a joke, and perhaps most importantly, when to keep your mouth shut. Business lessons abound too as forethought, local knowledge and precise execution, for example, can help you come out ahead against a faster competitor.
Aside from the dramatic comeback, this year’s America’s Cup will be known for innovation – and not just the engineering success of getting a boat up on foils but also innovation in marketing and merchandising.
First, a little history: The America’s Cup is the oldest international sporting trophy and actually isn’t a cup at all. It’s a 165-year-old sterling silver ewer – a bottomless pitcher. And it isn’t named for the United States of America. The first race was a 53-mile contest around the Isle of Wight in the northern English Channel which the yacht “America” won by defeating 15 English rivals. It was a big deal at the time as Queen Victoria herself watched the race and was reported to have asked who came in second place. The famed answer: “Ah, Your Majesty, there is no second.” (One of my favorite quotes of all time.)
The yacht “America” took the pitcher, err…Cup, back to the United States, and a series of challenges by other nations ensued for the next 100 plus years, which the U.S. successfully defended year after year. Interest in the Cup races was largely the domain of the narrow sailing demographic until 1983 when an Australian boat with a famed winged keel won the Cup and took it Down Under. The U.S. won it back in the Cup’s first fully televised series in 1987, and then politics took over. Strange challenges to the Cup, both legal and nautical, arose for the next 25 years, and interest waned considerably in the United States until an American team with the backing of tech billionaire Larry Ellison of Oracle returned the Cup to U.S. soil in 2010 after a 15-year absence. Ellison and his team chose to defend the next challenge in San Francisco Bay, setting the stage for today’s dramatic conclusion.
In my opinion, innovation rules the day in San Fran. The massive winged sails, which I originally found to be very unsightly, create tremendous lift and boat speed which is unmatched in the world right now. In prior challenges, Cup boats were constricted by specific design requirements, and one could easily find boats faster than those raced in the America’s Cup. Not anymore. The new catamarans are the fastest sailboats on the water and have shocked the sailing world by rising up on their foils (even sailing upwind) and dazzling crowds by consistently hitting speeds never seen before. The boats are big, fast and different – and this has made the Cup races much more compelling.
The marketing, merchandising and PR for the Cup also made big strides. Ellison chose to have the races in San Francisco Bay, featuring picturesque views that would make any sports television producer gush. In every telecast, you see downtown San Francisco, the Embarcadero, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and Sausalito. And the boats are so big that you can actually watch races from shore and have a sense of the action. And because each race finishes on the waterfront, the winning boat typically makes a high-speed flyby to the delight of fans.
On television, the races are also spectacular. Each boat is fitted with multiple cameras for viewing of activity onboard as well what’s happening on the other boat. Helicopters circle above for close-in shots of the action, and it seems that no expense has been spared in computer animation to explain the wind and current, racing tactics and even how “dirty air” coming off of one boat affects the other. This is nothing like anything the sailing world has ever seen in explaining the finer points of the sport to the average viewer.
It’s been an exciting couple weeks of sailboat racing, but it’s not too late to get caught up. The final race starts at 4pm EST on the NBC Sports Network. Check it out online here: http://stream.nbcsports.com/liveextra/
Author: John P. David
One day last week, I jumped on the ESPN website, clicked on the college football news ticker and half of the stories were about players getting arrested over the summer. One recent report said that Ohio State coach Urban Meyer spent an entire news conference at Big Ten Media Days explaining off-the-field problems. Players across the country have been arrested for assault, possession, DUI and other offenses. At my alma mater the University of Florida, linebacker Antonio Morrison was arrested for, get this, barking at a police dog. I guess he was harassing the dog. Not sure what to make of it but the quote was amusing: “I walked by and said ‘woof woof’ and they arrested me,” said Morrison. The charges were later dropped. The cop admitted he was having a bad day.
And pro football’s police blotter is jam packed this summer. Leading the chain gang is former New England Patriot tight end (and also former Gator) Aaron Hernandez who now resides in a Massachusetts jail on first-degree murder charges – and is being investigated in another double homicide.
NFL arrests are up 75 percent this off season. How do they know an exact percentage you ask? I will answer that question with a question: Would you believe me if I told you there was an NFL Arrest Database? It exists and like any good database, it’s searchable so you can find out that the Miami Dolphins, for example, haven’t had an arrest since last November when defensive back Jonathon Amaya was charged with battery after allegedly choking a cab driver – classy. The Tampa Bay Bucs, however, have had five players arrested this offseason with the most interesting being defensive end Da’Quan Bowers who was arrested after a .40-caliber handgun was found in his luggage at New York’s LaGuardia Airport. The Jacksonville Jaguars haven’t had anyone arrested in more than a year, rounding out the teams in my home state.
Labor economist Stephen Bronars analyzed the arrest database and found that 0.78 players per team are arrested each off-season. He also broke down arrests by position: Wide Receivers accounted for more than 1 out of 6 arrests. Cornerbacks accounted for about 1 out of 7 arrests . Linebackers 1 out of 8. Punters and Kickers 1 out of 67. Offensive Guards (a more benign bunch) accounted for only 1 out of 107 arrests . The Cincinnati Bengals, Minnesota Vikings and Tennessee Titans were among the teams with the highest arrest rates, doubling the NFL average.
So what’s going on with football these days? Why so many players in the pokey? And do we have a public relations problem here?
The standard answers still hold true. Football is an extremely aggressive, testosterone-pumping and violent game – yet that doesn’t really explain the punters and kickers. And during the off-season, these guys have a lot of time on their hands – and the pros have plenty of flash money.
Apologist-sounding answers aside, I think the NFL and big-time college football need to address this image issue sooner than later. Reputations and ticket sales are at stake.
A few suggestions:
Go kiss some babies. Football needs to redouble its efforts to have its players out in the community – either doing good works or teaching kids how to throw spirals. Is Punt, Pass and Kick still around? I have an 11-year-old son who has never heard of it. By the way, it still exists but a quick check online shows that there are only two competitions within 50 miles of where I live. The players, at both levels, need to bond with their communities and spend more time with their fans and less time “in the club” at 2 a.m. on a Wednesday.
Pump up the volume on charitable efforts. Philanthropic arm NFL Charities gives away $10 million per year, but aside from a few commercials you see during the season, you wouldn’t know it. The good deeds done by college and pro teams need to max out the publicity budget. The fans need to see that the players, coaches and ownership do more than count money and get in trouble.
It’s a privilege not a right. This is a longer haul tactic but through some combination of bigger penalties for misbehavior (outside of the judicial system) and building a greater sense of pride in themselves and the game, the NFL and college football have to instill in their players that it is a privilege, not a right, to play the game. It won’t be easy. They have to start with tough penalties such as “No strike” policies when players commit domestic violence or for gun charges, for example. Bans for repeat offenders may need to be the norm. Penalties must say, loud and clear, that bad behavior won’t be tolerated. And they must beat the drum that they have a responsibility, just like the rest of us on the big blue marble, to be good citizens.
Training camp is starting and much of the focus will now turn to the field, but the NFL and college football need to keep an eye on off-field behavior and plan for the next, hopefully uneventful, off-season.
What do you think? Have off-the-field issues changed your perception of big time football?
Author: John P. David