The lesson of 1-800-flowers and Hotels.com and a ramble to Cyber
Monday. Before you disagree with me, first allow yourself to visit the other side of the coin. Remaining ignorant in the face of facts is still your choice so don't feel too threatened. Clinging to failure is just human nature. Are you bold enough to look at the same thing in a different way? Give me your mind for 5 minutes and let me see if I can get you really wound up.
Companies buy all types of insurance to protect them from this
and that and things we have not even thought of. However they don't buy
'Competition insurance.' How silly is that? No insurance to make sure some new
guy coming along does not steal some of their market share. Even with lessons to
point to, 'Competition Insurance' is not bought. Why? Well they can't figure out
who the hell is responsible for that. Corporate thinks it is up to Sales Dept.
The Sales Dept tells Manufacturing but they told them that they need to see Legal since it is an insurance matter. Meanwhile the CEO is playing golf and
spending the bonus he may have not earned on merits but since his attorney got
him such a great deal that's just the way it is.
So Sales now has to explain to
Legal why they need this insurance that really does not exist. See this
'Insurance' is not an ' Insurance Policy.' It is much more important than making sure you are covered in case somebody slips and falls. It is the
insurance to make sure that the company keeps steaming along and keeps that
market share growing. It's the part of the company responsible for thwarting
threats from new startups and their old historic rivals. What they have yet to
see even with example after example is that by owning a generic category name in
a dotcom it is not only good business, it prevents another 1-800-flowers or Hotels.com from coming along and disrupting an entire industry. Yet with these
examples we still have generic category domains floating around. Domains that receive thousands of targeted visitors that don't use Google to get there but type the domain directly in the browser bar. It becomes a 'Destination' just like you would probably type in Sears.com as opposed to going to Google to see where Sears is. The domain may be
floating today and the CEO may be yachting today, but the shareholder will all
live to regret it tomorrow if these companies FAIL to secure their generics before their competition does.
If I am Xerox I want copiers.com. If I am HP I want
printers.com. If I am Kleenex, I want tissue.com. If I am McDonalds, I want
hamburgers.com. If I am MasterCard, I want Priceless.com. If I am Rolex, I want
watches.com. If I am anyone THINKING I am the leader in that category, I want
the domain name associated with the category. And for all those CEO's that don't
have the VISION to say the same thing.......your shareholders should fire your
butts right now. Click on those generic names above to see which companies get it and which companies don't.
companies that blew this one that now have to pay for those reservations for
EVER. I wonder how many millions that adds up to over a years time? 5 years? 10
years? And not a single person with the vision at Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, Ritz
Carlton, Sheraton, etc. Doesn't anyone see the HUGE GAFF that was made here? A
costly gaff. Perhaps the biggest in business history. Except of course
1800flowers and flowers.com who took out one of the oldest category leaders in
my lifetime. I can't wait to hear the story at TRAFFIC direct from the horses
mouth and ask Jim McCann how many horses asses he had to deal with before they
figured it out? So BRAVO to Corp America and Madison Ave that have yet to figure
out that 2 + 2 = 4. Branding is a great thing. But you don't turn away millions
of customers just because they wanted a hotel room or flowers and did not ask
for you by your BRAND. They asked for the GENERIC. (Read my hotels.com and Madison Ave blog rant here.)
yellow pages. You come to 'Hotels' Instead of there being you and 200
competitors, what if you could have just bought the entire listing? You look
under Hotels and ONLY your hotel came up for all those tens of millions of
people. I guess that would have no value?? I guess you don't want to be listed
first. Guess you don't want any of that? Oh you do? So why can't you make the
connection with the domain names being the same as that category heading in the
yellow pages? Except of course the domain name is much more valuable and be seen
by more people that turn into customers. By the way, how much is that yellow
page ad costing? The one you come up number 24 even though you are having a bold
display ad? How many books are you in? How many years? How many under 18 have
ever even used that antique called the 'Yellow pages?' They may go to
YellowPages.com and that single domain name is the generic for every yellow
pages book ever printed. So which has more weight? One yellow page book from
one company for one area or YellowPages.com which virtually swallowed up all the
other Yellow Pages on the planet?
'I SAY IT IS BS! Branding without increasing sales is FAILURE!'
without running out of stories that make big business look silly and Madison Ave look like they could care less about increasing sales for their clients. They will tell you it is about 'Branding.'. I say that is BS. Branding without increasing sales is FAILURE! They
continually miss a source for new customers that provides a never ending stream
of new business every day of the year for perhaps as long as the net itself survives. A source that has no ongoing costs or
upkeep and for those so hung up on branding please consider this. If the
hotels.com domain was pointed to Marriott.com and that domain as a generic
domain with no advertising or promotion received 25,000 visitors a day. Day
after day after day. EVERY day 25,000 visitors and since when they get to
hotels.com they would be landing on the Mariottt.com reservation site that would
provide the BRAND with 25,000 new eyeballs everyday going to Marriott.com. For
some idiotic reason few on Madison Avenue and few in Corporate America can get
their heads around something so simple like taking a generic domain and pointing it to their regular website and instead of paying for traffic from Google, they get it DIRECT from consumers typing the name to the browser bar. Does it matter that the ADDED sale came from somebody that said HOTELS instead of MARRIOTT??! Does it look different on a spreadsheet?
'CALL ME THE FOOL!'
Like I have said before, the best
branding is more sales. What would the value be of renting out another 1000 room
nights each night for 365 days? The rooms that would not be rented. The rooms
sitting vacant! Had ANY chain had the VISION to figure it out, that hotel would
have purchased hotels.com and transformed their company. That one domain name purchase would
have cost a FRACTION of building a new hotel and would have provided more
reservations than any other single source they could ever get. But hey, laugh
at me for even suggesting how it could have unfolded if any one at any of the
hotel chains or their elite Madison Avenue agencies were not asleep at the
wheel. Call me the fool for even suggesting such an outcome. Tell me what a know
nothing I am and I don't understand about branding. Fine I am a fool but I see
all of you as failures for still not recognizing the obvious.
Do the damn math
already and see what the world could have looked like if even one of you folks
had a little vision of what was to unfold. I point to this example as it is too
late in the hotel industry to own the category. Barry Diller made you all look
like fools. Yes he did! However it is not too late in other industries. Those generic
category names may still be bouncing around the market and able to be obtained.
So happy cyber Monday. Maybe this will be the year that folks realize that
traditional media is shrinking and splintering as the new media is pumped and
hot. Maybe this will be the year that folks finally make the leap and realize
the opportunity that may be available in your industry. Maybe not. The bottom line is a generic domain name, especially one that describes an entire category, is one of the most cost effective, long term marketing and branding tools you can acquire. The cost of delay is bigger than one can imagine. Where is the sense of urgency in Corp America? Most don't actually figure it out until their competition does and by then it is too late. You already lost the game.
By the way......have you figured out who
is responsible for competition insurance at your company or is that
somebody else's department Mr. CEO? If everyone in the chain FAILS....and they have.....then it is up to the CEO to save the day. If not, join PetSupermarket.com who has yet to open and sell items online. The CEO there is the POSTER BOY for corporate stupidity. 100 stores and no online way to purchase in 2007!! How do you EXCUSE that?
Have a GREAT day!
*Disclaimer. I had no idea who owned the generic domain names listed above at the time I wrote this piece.